Aston Villa 1-1 Leicester: Rudy Gestede rescues point for bottom club
By Ben Nagle
Last Updated: 17/01/16 8:39am
Rudy Gestede's second-half strike rescued a point for Aston Villa and stopped Leicester opening up a three-point gap at the top of the Premier League table.
Shinji Okazaki opened the scoring (28) in the first half at Villa Park on Saturday evening to put the away side ahead in a feisty Midlands derby, before Riyad Mahrez spurned a golden chance to put Leicester two up from the spot.
The visitors paid for Mahrez's second successive penalty miss as substitute Gestede struck 15 minutes from time to send Villa Park into raptures and ensure Leicester only top the Premier League by a single point going into Sunday's matches.
The draw left battling Villa nine points from safety but boss Remi Garde will likely take heart from improved performances in what seems like a futile struggle against the drop.
Claudio Ranieri's had the first chance of an absorbing and even opening quarter of an hour, when Jamie Vardy squeezed a header at goal.
The ball was whipped in, before the England man emerged above a crowd of players to glance an effort at goal. Mark Bunn was left scrambling to his right, but the ball glided just wide of the post.
Seconds later, Vardy was again at the centre of a Leicester attack, beating Mark Bunn to the ball before being sent flying to the turf by a late sliding challenge. The presence of covering defenders meant it was just a yellow card for Bunn, but it was another reminder of the England man's ability to create something from nothing.
On the 20-minute mark, and with Leicester beginning to assert their authority, Villa were gifted a gilt-edged chance after a mistake by Robert Huth.
His under-hit back-pass gave Libor Kozak a run at goal but the seldom-used striker, only appearing in his third Premier League match of the season, saw Kasper Schmeichel save well at the near post and any chance on the rebound was soon snuffed out.
It seemed Villa would not have a better chance to go ahead and it proved the case, as Leicester took the lead later in the first half. A frantic five minutes began with the goal, Vardy again getting in behind the Villa defence to start a move out of nothing.
The striker aimed a shot at goal, with Bunn scrambling back to his line to make a save. He clawed the initial effort away brilliantly, but it fell to Okazaki for a second bite at the cherry.
Again, Bunn saved, but his initial stop from Vardy had put him behind the goal-line. The referee's watch vibrated and the goal was given - the ball had indeed crossed the line, and Leicester led 1-0.
Minutes later, the Foxes should have made it two. The ball fell to Mahrez at the back post, and his shot was blocked by Aly Cissokho. As screams for handball went up, the referee pointed to the spot and Mahrez was given a great opportunity to double his lead.
After the melee had cleared, the Algerian forward struck his penalty firmly down the middle, but the outstretched leg of a diving Bunn saved the shot and put the ball over the crossbar, to ensure Villa were only one down at the break.
In the second half, it was all Villa as they searched for a way back in, with Villa Park roaring them on. There were claims for a penalty on the hour mark when Huth swung an arm at Kozak, but the referee waved away the protests.
Gestede came on as a substitute and made his mark within 10 minutes when a ball bobbled into his feet and up onto his arm, play continuing as it was deemed not deliberate. He turned and fired a shot that nicked off Wes Morgan and squeezed into the top corner to level the scores.
Tempers frayed between Vardy and Leandro Bacuna in the latter stages, but despite both sides fighting for a winner, the spoils were shared and each team left with a hard-earned point.
Aston Villa: Bunn (8), Cissokho (6), Lescott (6), Okore (6), Bacuna (7), Veretout (7), Gueye (7), Westwood (7), Gil (6), Kozak (7), Ayew (7)
Subs used: Gestede (8), Sinclair
Leicester: Schmeichel (7), Fuchs (7), Huth (6), Morgan (7), Simpson (7), Kante (6), Drinkwater (8), Albrighton (7), Okazaki (8), Mahrez (5), Vardy (7)
Subs used: De Laet (6), Ulloa (6), Gray
Man of the match: Danny Drinkwater