The former Birmingham striker, whose every touch was booed by the visiting fans, nodded the ball into an empty net after Villa's goalkeeper Mark Bosnich could only parry a powerful Matt Elliott header. It was a sweet moment for Claridge, who replaced Mark Robins at half-time.
The tone was set in the fifth minute when Matt Elliott almost caught Bosnich napping with a fierce near-post header from Simon Grayson's right- wing cross. City's midfielder Neil Lennon and Steve Guppy, making his home debut, both tried their luck from long range as Villa struggled to get their passing game going in the swirling wind and rain.
In the second half Claridge instantly improved Leicester's forward line. Elliott moved up field and tested Bosnich with a wicked left-foot drive after Garry Parker's 58th minute free-kick was only half cleared. Then Emile Heskey limped off eight minutes later clutching his right leg.
Villa raised the tempo in search of an equaliser but were restricted to fruitless long range efforts from Ian Taylor and Mark Draper.
Leicester City: Keller, Grayson, Guppy, Prior (Watts, 59), Walsh, Elliott, Izzet, Lennon, Parker, Robins (Claridge, h-t), Heskey (Taylor, 63). Substitutes not used: Poole (gk), Lawrence.
Aston Villa: Bosnich, Nelson, Wright, Ehiogu, Southgate, Hughes, Taylor, Draper (Johnson, 75), Townsend, Yorke, Milosevic (Joachim, 75). Substitutes not used: Oakes (gk), Hendrie, Murray.
Referee: G Poll (Tring).Reuse content