Aston Villa vs Leicester match report: Alan Hutton's first goal for Villa makes it 10 games without a win for struggling Foxes

Aston Villa 2 Leicester 1

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Two points from 30 is no bargaining chip for a manager under the cosh. The best that can be said of Nigel Pearson’s Sunday evening experience is that it was not at home, sparing him another exchange with increasingly despairing elements of the Leicester support.

Leicester took the lead and lost for the third game in succession. They gave everything yet could still have lost by a cricket score. Were it not for the remarkable contribution of Kasper Schmeichel in goal the scoreline might have glowed red, making life even more difficult for a club rooted at the foot of the Premier League, four points adrift of 17th spot.

Paul Konchesky’s red card with 11 minutes to go provided a post-match talking point to divert the attention from the result and the possible consequences for the coach, but Pearson is not in the business of making excuses. His players are hurting just as much as he is, he said, but the answers can only come from within.

“I’ve been asked about my position a number of times,” Pearson said. “I can’t afford to worry about that. That would be a negative influence on how I work and our ability to get preparation right for the next game.

“There is no getting away from how difficult it is at the moment. The players are very down, hurting in there, but they are a good group and there is talent in the ranks. We have to make our own breaks.

“Only we can rectify it. We need to break the cycle. The longer it goes on the harder it is. There is a strong team ethic but no quick fix. We have to find the answers. I’m a proud man. I want to stay in charge, but there is no point giving in to added pressures.

“Football remains a business in which margins are small. Most managers feel the pressure to get results. I do my job in the way I think is best. That’s not being blasé. It’s about being rational, and being prepared to work through a difficult time.”

The first hand Pearson’s opposite number Paul Lambert shook belonged to Alan Hutton. It might have been coincidence, or relief that his full-back should demonstrate the composure to beat a goalkeeper that did justice and more to the Schmeichel name.  

Gabriel Agbonlahor ripped down the Villa left and fed the ball to Christian Benteke, who picked out the advancing Hutton. Since Schmeichel had already pulled off a string of outstanding saves to deny Benteke, Agbonlahor and Kieran Richardson, he had to be the favourite to win the duel, but Hutton took a deep breath and, after chesting the ball down, calmly picked his spot.

“I can’t remember my last goal (2010), I’m just happy to get my head down and score,” said Hutton. “It’s a massive win. That’s five games unbeaten and we’re 11th in the league. Not many people are talking about that. Hopefully we can build on this.”

Nine minutes later Hutton found himself at the centre of the furore that saw Konchesky lose his head and then his station.

The Leicester full-back infringed with a hard tackle on Hutton, gave him a mouthful and left his nut in the face of Hutton when he got back to his feet. That said, Hutton gave as good as he got and might also have  gone.

“These things happen,” Hutton, who was booked in the clash, said. “Things get heated. There’s a lot of pressure. I understand that. I’m surprised he was sent off, but that’s not my decision. I don’t think I did anything wrong. It was unfortunate for him.”

Benteke might have put Villa ahead in the 12th minute with only Schmeichel to beat but missed the target. It proved a costly miss. Riyad Mahrez blazed inside off the right touchline to let rip with a low shot that Brad Guzan could only palm into the path of Leonardo Ulloa, who tapped the ball home.

Villa were level inside four minutes, though, with Ciaran Clark meeting Ashley Westwood’s free-kick and steering a brilliant header beyond  Schmeichel.

With Westwood operating impressively as a pivot in front of the back four, his intelligent promptings gave Villa a more coherent shape. It was a pity that they lost him to injury four minutes before the end of the first half.

Judging by the way Clark smashed into Ulloa it is fair to assume Villa were aggrieved at the Jamie Vardy challenge that saw Westwood leave on a stretcher. Ulloa made it to the break but did not appear thereafter.

Tom Cleverley should have at least hit the target as Villa picked up the pace immediately after the break, Benteke once more the provider with a neat diagonal pass. Next in the slot was Agbonlahor, but his cross from the left was somehow bundled to safety as Richardson closed in. 

Benteke would love to have again the chance Richardson created for him with a sumptuous first-time ball. As Schmeichel raced off his line to narrow the angle, Benteke chose to clip the ball over the keeper when he might have rounded him.

Schmeichel won that duel, and the next against Agbonlahor, saving again this time with an outstretched foot – and all this within the opening 10 minutes of the half. Every missed chance is an invitation for the opposition to punish you.

David Nugent almost obliged with a terrific strike after gathering a loose ball down the left but Guzan, who had been largely idle for 20 minutes, diverted the ball over the bar with a fine save.

After watching those who are paid to score fail, it was left to Hutton to show the Villa strikers how to do it with 20 minutes left. Matters worsened for Leicester with the dismissal of Konchesky, a straight red for an ugly challenge on the goal scorer coupled with an overly aggressive follow-up that involved heated words plus a head-butt.

Inspired goalkeeping from Schmeichel kept the scoreline sensible, but that is little consolation to Pearson, a manager in deep trouble and the champions Manchester City up next. Football, bloody hell.

Aston Villa: Guzan, Hutton, Okore, Clark, Cissokho, Sanchez, Westwood, Cleverley, N’Zogbia, Agbonlahor, Benteke

Leicester: Schmeichel, Simpson, Wasilewski, Moore, Konchesky, Mahrez, Cambiasso, James, Schlupp, Vardy, Ulloa

Man of the match Hutton

Match rating 8/10

Referee C Pawson (South Yorkshire).

Att 27,692



5 - Matches unbeaten for Aston Villa – their best run since last December

2 - Points from 10 matches for Leicester since their 5-3 victory over Man United

49 - Months since Alan Hutton’s previous goal – for Spurs in defeat at Bolton