Just as against Palace four days earlier, Villa’s defence against Leicester was generally sturdy but committed one moment of madness. Last Tuesday it was inside the first 45 seconds of the match as a still-asleep Villa let Palace play their way through the defence with frightening ease. On that occasion, we got away with it as Wilfried Zaha’s shot came back off the post.
On Saturday, however, a similarly cavalier attitude towards the concept of ‘defending’ cost us dearly. Leicester hadn’t threatened too much until a long kick from Kasper Schmeichel found the otherwise impressive Jores Okore statuesque. Vardy nearly caught Bunn out with a first-time effort, and despite the keeper’s best efforts Shinji Okazaki was just about able to turn home the rebound.
That error turned an even contest into one in which Villa were now chasing the game against the joint league leaders, and aside from Gestede’s timely leveller, we just weren’t good enough in attacking areas. It has long been a problem, but never has Villa’s lack of a telling final ball or touch in an advanced position been clearer than on Saturday. Leandro Bacuna had a single decent cross to show for his numerous efforts, and a poor Jordan Veretout was equally bad with his deliveries from both open play and set pieces.
When we did get a chance, Libor Kozak spurned it. The Czech striker should have taken the golden opportunity he was given in the first half when he raced (well, lumbered) onto a loose ball, but his shot lacked the conviction to beat Schmeichel at his near post. Kozak should also perhaps have scored in the second half when he could only head over the bar from close range, although in fairness to the striker the ball in was a touch too high for him to keep his header down.
Although nobody likes to have to bemoan refereeing decisions as a key factor in the result of a match, Roger East also failed to make a crucial call at an important stage of the match. His decision to penalise Aly Cissokho and award Leicester a spot-kick infuriated the Villa Park crowd – although I must admit that in my view he made the correct call in that instance – but what was worse was his failure to punish Robert Huth for what would likely be termed actual bodily harm had it occurred on the street rather than on a football pitch.
Huth’s elbow on the striker should have warranted a penalty and a red card, an incident which would undoubtedly have changed the course of the game and would have significantly improved Villa’s odds of coming away with three points rather than a draw. Last week against Palace we got a rare lucky break, but we were not so fortunate this time.
As counterintuitive as it may seem, were Villa a few places higher in the league then this result could be viewed as a big positive. As it is, with the club still rooted to the bottom of the league in such desperate fashion, it has to go down as another opportunity to get a priceless three points spurned.
On Tuesday Villa face a game that we could really do without, the cup replay at home to Wycombe. Whether or not you see our continued participation in the competition as a matter of importance, the real significance of the replay is that Villa must win it if we are to keep the positive vibes from the last week going. A cup exit at home at the hands of a club three divisions below us would, let’s face it, be a real mood killer and that cannot be allowed to happen.
Beyond that, and of greater significance in the grand scheme of things, is the trip across Birmingham to face West Brom at The Hawthorns next weekend. If Villa can take a total of six or seven points from the next three games against Albion, West Ham, and Norwich City – a big ask, it must be said – then we’re still in this fight.
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