Aston Villa 1-1 Leicester: Five talking points as Gestede rescues hosts
By Nick Wright
Last Updated: 16/01/16 10:09pm
Rudy Gestede came off the bench to rescue a 1-1 draw for Aston Villa against Leicester but the point was enough to move the Foxes above Manchester City and Arsenal at the top of the Premier League.
Gestede's deflected equaliser came after Shinji Okazaki had given Leicester the lead in the first half and Riyad Mahrez had missed an opportunity to double the visitors' advantage from the penalty spot.
From Villa's survival chances to Leicester's unsung hero, we round up the top talking points from Villa Park…
Hope for Villa?
One point gained or two points dropped for Villa? The draw kept them nine points away from safety, but, following their 1-0 win over Crystal Palace on Tuesday, it was only the second time all season they have gone two games without defeat. Remi Garde was keen to look at the positives.
"The second half was much better, I was happy about that," he told Sky Sports. "I have the feeling that if that team played this kind of game they probably wouldn't be where they are today. We have 16 games to go and I feel like we are still capable of doing something."
In the Sky Sports studio, Tim Sherwood urged his old side to keep believing. "Look how hard Villa pushed the league leaders," he said. "You can go anywhere and win in this league, and you have to keep believing that you can."
Mahrez pays the penalty
The turning point at Villa Park arrived in the 33rd minute, when Mahrez's weak penalty was easily repelled by Mark Bunn. The Algerian has been outstanding for the Foxes this season, but this was his second costly miss from the spot following the goalless draw with Bournemouth at the start of the month.
Claudio Ranieri insisted Mahrez would not necessarily be taken off spot-kick duty in his post-match interview with Sky Sports, but top scorer Jamie Vardy has scored all three of the penalties he has taken this season and Leicester can't afford to miss any more opportunities if they are to sustain their unlikely title challenge.
"The penalty save is massive," said Sherwood. "If you're 2-0 down before half-time the game is gone, but Mark Bunn makes the penalty save and the momentum changes."
Leicester's unsung hero?
If there's one player who typifies Leicester's unshakable team spirit it is surely their unheralded striker Okazaki. The Japan international, a summer signing from Mainz, has been overshadowed by Vardy and Mahrez this season, but his importance to the side was clear at Villa Park.
The lung-busting run for his goal was one of 63 high-intensity sprints - the highest of any Leicester player despite his 59th-minute substitution - and he also covered more ground than anyone else in that time (7.88km).
"He's like a Duracell bunny," said Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp. "He's absolutely non-stop," added Sherwood. "He's what you want in your team. He stretches teams and opens up the space for the likes of Mahrez to get on the ball."
Gestede still has role to play
Gestede has only started four of Garde's 11 Premier League matches in charge but he made his case for more regular involvement here. The former Blackburn striker might have been fortunate not to be penalised for handball in the build-up to his equaliser, but he tipped the contest in Villa's favour and proved a real handful for Wes Morgan and Robert Huth.
Gestede won all five of his aerial duels and outshone his strike partner Libor Kozak, who missed two excellent scoring chances including a one-on-one with Kasper Schmeichel in the first half. Sherwood described Gestede as a "bully" after the game. Villa could certainly use a little fight in what remains of the season.
Hosts denied penalty
Villa were denied a penalty of their own in the second half when Robert Huth raised an arm to the face of Kozak, who ended up in the heap on the floor. Villa players were furious as the referee ignored their appeals, and Garde vented his frustration after the game.
"Of course there is a penalty," he told Sky Sports. "I don't undersatand how the linesman can see the first penalty and not the second one. I saw it on the TV it's just obvious for me and probably for everybody." Sherwood sympathised with his successor, adding: "Leicester were very fortunate to get away with that."