Football: Villa foiled by Cottee

Leicester City 2 Aston Villa 2
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TWO GOALS in front by the fifth minute of the second half, Aston Villa looked on course to bring their mid-season collapse to an overdue end at Filbert Street last night before an inspired Leicester revival left John Gregory's one-time Premiership title contenders still without a win in 12 matches since mid-January.

Villa appeared to have the points safely in the bag after the former Leicester striker Julian Joachim, creator of their opening goal, had himself scored for the 12th time this season. But after Robbie Savage had seized a lifeline for the home side, Tony Cottee, having scored the 200th League goal of his career at Tottenham on Saturday, tucked away the one more he needed to complete a double century in the top flight as Leicester deservedly secured a share of the spoils.

Villa's quest to reverse almost three months of Premiership decline began with the fillip of a goal in only 79 seconds. Joachim, peeling away to the right, delivered a skidding, low cross that Frank Sinclair, stumbling, failed to cut out and although Andy Impey thwarted Dion Dublin's attempt to take advantage, Lee Hendrie arrived at the far post to crash the ball home.

The goal - Villa's first in 315 minutes of Premiership football - provided a reminder of the confidence they enjoyed in leading the Premiership table for three months before Christmas. It was the first time they had scored first in a match since their last victory, against Everton on 18 January. None the less it was Leicester who made the clearer chances in a busy opening half, the best of which - Sinclair's howitzer of a volley - resulted in an instinctive save by Mark Bosnich.

Villa, however, reinforced their superiority with a second goal following a well-worked corner on the right. Alan Wright swung in a deep centre, Ian Taylor met it with a downward header across goal and Joachim, with his back to goal, spun and shot in one movement to hook the ball wide of Kasey Keller and a clutch of defenders.

Again, Leicester responded strongly and twice within moments Bosnich scrambled the ball to safety, first from Neil Lennon and then Emile Heskey. This time, however, the onslaught bore fruit. Wright's hesitancy in the face of a long ball through the middle by Steve Guppy after 62 minutes allowed Savage a clear view of Villa's goal and, spotting Bosnich off the goal-line, the Welshman floated his shot over the Australian goalkeeper's head.

Eight minutes later, Leicester levelled the scores with another excellent goal, Cottee moving into space at the near post to meet Guppy's cross from the left and steering an exquisite header wide of Bosnich.

Leicester City (3-4-1-2): Keller; Sinclair, Elliott, Ullathorne; Impey, Savage, Lennon, Guppy; Gunnlaugsson (Miller, 58); Cottee, Heskey. Substitutes not used: Arphexad (gk), Kaamark, Marshall, Zagorakis.

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Bosnich; Watson (Barry, 75), Calderwood, Southgate, Wright; Stone, Draper, Taylor, Hendrie; Dublin, Joachim. Substitutes not used: Oakes (gk), Merson, Vassell, Delaney.

Referee: S Lodge (Barnsley).