The good news for Leicester City is that a controversial moment in the game helped mask the extent of their defensive deficiencies. The bad news is Aston Villa still pierced them twice, extending the visitors’ malaise to 14 league games without a clean sheet and just three victories in their last 12.
Steven Gerrard outwitted his former Liverpool manager and ex-Old Firm foe to intensify pressure on Brendan Rodgers, who has not witnessed his side be this inconsistent; starved of compactness and control.
Villa manoeuvred above Leicester in the standings to further a fine start under their new boss.
But for wastefulness, a Michael Oliver decision assisted by VAR, and a clumsily worded law, the scoreline could have been inflated in their favour.
A highly entertaining game that saw two teams more intent on and comfortable in flexing their offensive weaponry was level heading into the interval.
Excellent movement, persistence and intelligence from Patson Daka created the opener. He thieved possession off Marvelous Nakamba and supplied a slick angled pass to Harvey Barnes.
Ezri Konsa tried to impede him but was nutmegged for his trouble with the ball nestling into the far corner.
A set-piece, Leicester’s kryptonite, sparked a spate of aerial tennis with Emi Buendia heading in from 12 yards and the ball ultimately helped in by the studs of Konsa’s boot.
Only three minutes separated the goals, and with the tempo quite relentless, it was unsurprising that both teams continued to threaten.
Kasper Schmeichel thwarted Matty Cash, who in turn spoiled a James Maddison strike. The divisive moment of the match arrived soon after when Douglas Luiz delivered a cross beyond the far post, which Cash headed back into the six-yard box. Schmeichel dived to his right trying to palm the ball away, but could only get a loose left hand on it for half a second before Jacob Ramsey slammed it in.
The goal was given before Oliver was advised to review the incident on the monitor, with the effort chalked off. Law 12 was invoked, which reads the goalkeeper is in control if “the ball is between the hands or between the hand and any surface (e.g. ground, own body) or by touching it with any part of the hands or arms except if the ball rebounds from the goalkeeper or the goalkeeper has made a save”.
The exception seemed to clarify that the goal should have stood, given it was a rebound from Schmeichel. However, it possibly could only apply to the final clause – a case of poor wording.
That denial ignited Villa, who began the second period strongly and were suitably rewarded. Luke Thomas blocked from Ollie Watkins, but the resulting corner saw Konsa effortlessly rise above Caglar Soyuncu to nail a downward header in at the near post.
Leicester’s deadball defect continued, conceding a joint league-high 10 goals from set-pieces this season.
Maddison had a lovely left-footed shot that skimmed just wide, but the closing stages were largely a story of Villa spurning opportunities on the break.
Gerrard has now overseen three wins from four, with the black mark a credible defeat by title-eyeing Manchester City. Conquering Anfield represents his next challenge; an emotive equation. The math is altogether more difficult for Rodgers, who has to solve a variety of issues for a Leicester side that feel like an imitation of recent history.
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