Football: Villa ambushed by Marshall

Leicester City 1 Marshall 37 Aston Villa 0 Attendance: 20,304
Click to follow
The Independent Online
The lesson learned here is that Leicester City, the toughest of battlers last season, will work their socks off again this year and damage more title hopes than just Aston Villa's in their determination to survive in the Premiership.

A goal from Ian Marshall eight minutes before half-time wrecked Villa's plans to launch their campaign of high ambition with a decisive victory over their Midlands rivals, their three-pronged attacking spearhead, constructed around the pounds 7m talents of record signing Stan Collymore, blunted by a tireless Leicester defence in which Matt Elliott and Spencer Prior were outstanding.

Villa's formation was adventurous, their tactics direct. Brian Little had not chosen three in attack in order that Leicester could enjoy a stroll in the sun and his game plan was clearly to supply the trio frequently and at speed.

For half an hour it all went according to plan, with the best early chances going their way. First Ian Taylor drove wide after a Savo Milosevic strike was only half-cleared, then Dwight Yorke, feeding off Collymore's persistence in the box, could not find sufficient power to trouble Kasey Keller.

Collymore enjoyed his debut, not least for the exchanges - in words and gestures - with the home crowd. After 20 minutes, at the end of a typically swift Villa attack, he beat Keller to Andy Townsend's cross but headed over.

Leicester's defence were feeling the heat, not least Pontus Kamark, deployed to follow Yorke. Villa had the bit between their teeth and missed going ahead by a whisker when Mark Draper, lying in wait after a Collymore cross was knocked away, brushed the outside of a post.

But just when it seemed Villa must score, Leicester did, with a goal that raised questions about Villa's defensive organisation, a four-man rearguard having replaced last season's five. Steve Guppy's cross from the left found Marshall taking on the diminutive Alan Wright in a decidedly uneven contest at the far post and there could only be one winner.

Leicester might have extended their lead seconds before half-time and again in the first minutes of the second period. Elliott missed narrowly moments before the break, volleying just too high after Guppy's deep corner was teed up by Steve Walsh, then Guppy dragged a good chance wide at the start of the second half before supplying a penetrating ball that Marshall was close to converting.