Kelechi Iheanacho’s late goal spared Leicester City’s blushes and secured a 1-1 draw at home to Aston Villa in the EFL Cup semi-final first leg, leaving the tie in the balance.
Brendan Rodgers’ Foxes went into the match on the back of three successive wins across all competitions, but they struggled to make the most of their superiority in Wednesday’s clash, with Iheanacho’s late equaliser the best they could muster.
For all of Leicester’s first-half dominance, Villa were the more effective in the final third, opening the scoring just before the half-hour mark through Frederic Guilbert and then going agonisingly close to a second when Ezri Konsa was denied by the crossbar.
Villa’s desire to attack vanished entirely in the second half as Leicester desperately attempted to break them down and eventually substitute Iheanacho capitalised on a defensive mishap to prevent a first-leg defeat.
Leicester initially had little difficulty establishing control, as they created several opportunities during the early exchanges – the best of which arrived in the 22nd minute, when Jamie Vardy’s effort from a tight angle was blocked by Orjan Nyland in the Villa goal.
Villa scored against the run of play soon after through Guilbert, who threw himself into the danger zone to prod Anwar El Ghazi’s cross past Kasper Schmeichel.
The Leicester goalkeeper was fortunate to not be picking the ball out of the net for a second time just before the break as he was beaten to a free-kick delivery by Konsa, but his header came back off the bar.
Leicester’s grip on proceedings only tightened after the break, but Nyland continued to frustrate, rushing out to thwart James Maddison just past the hour when the midfielder had brilliantly made space for himself.
But Nyland was helpless 16 minutes from time, as Iheanacho lashed past him after Douglas Luiz had been caught in possession by Hamza Choudhury.
What does it mean? Leicester will fancy their chances
Although they were expected to win at home, Leicester will still be confident of securing a spot in the final to – presumably – face Manchester City.
While Villa’s defence held out for a while, this match highlighted the gulf in quality between the two sets of players – surely Leicester will not be this wasteful next time.
Maddison Leicester’s bright spark
While he may not have ended the match with a goal or assist, there is no doubt Maddison was the biggest threat for Leicester. In an impressive outing, he had a total of eight shots, created four chances, delivered five good crosses and completed 95 per cent of his 65 passes.
Schmeichel fails to inspire confidence
Nyland was in fine form at one end – at the other, Schmeichel was underwhelming. The Dane might have done better for the goal and was then all at sea when Konsa hit the bar.
These two return to Premier League action at the weekend, with the Foxes hosting Southampton on Saturday and Villa welcoming Manchester City the following day. They face each other in the second leg on January 28. – BeIN.