Leicester maintained their fine form in the Premier League after securing a 2-1 victory against Aston Villa on Super Sunday.
Brendan Rodgers' side raced into a two-goal lead thanks to strikes from James Maddison (19) and Harvey Barnes (23), further enhancing their England claims in front of Gareth Southgate.
Southgate would have been disappointed not to have been able to cast an eye over Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish, who was missing through injury.
- Jack Grealish was sidelined for Aston Villa for the visit of Leicester on Sunday. The skipper was missing through injury as Anwar El Ghazi replaced him while Ahmed Elmohamady came in for the injured Matt Cash.
- Timothy Castagne returned for Leicester after a hamstring problem with Ricardo Pereira also starting after sitting out Thursday's 0-0 Europa League draw at Slavia Prague as he continues his recovery from a serious knee injury.
Villa struggled in the first half without their talisman, but they were given a route back into the game immediately after the interval through Bertrand Traore's close-range finish in the 48th minute.
It set up a big finish to the game, but Leicester, who briefly moved above Manchester United, held on for victory at Villa Park.
Defeat leaves Aston Villa, who do not expect Grealish to be sidelined for long, in eighth.
He's had some discomfort in training this week and we decided that it wasn't right [for him] to play so we pulled him out of there. We don't believe it's a long-term injury but we're just going to assess it as it goes. It's his leg but it's no recurrence of any previous injuries.
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How Leicester's fine season continued...
Leicester were quickly out of the traps and they were first to nearly every ball as Aston Villa, without Grealish, struggled to get a foothold in the game.
Despite the visitors being on top, it was Villa who created the first real opening of the game as Anwar El Ghazi's cross picked out Traore on the edge of the six-yard box, but the forward's shot was brilliantly blocked by full-back Luke Thomas.
Aston Villa: Martinez (5), Elmohamady (5), Konsa (6), Mings (6), Targett (7), Luiz (6), McGinn (6), Traore (7), Barkley (5), El Ghazi (5), Watkins (7).
Subs: Trezeguet (6), Ramsey (n/a), Sanson (n/a).
Leicester: Schmeichel (7), Castagne (7), Evans (8), Soyuncu (7), Thomas (8), Ndidi (7), Tielemans (7), Pereira (7), Maddison (8), Barnes (9), Vardy (7).
Subs: Mendy (6), Amartey (n/a), Choudhury (n/a).
Man of the match: Harvey Barnes.
The 19-year-old's intervention proved critical as Leicester went straight up the other end to break the deadlock. Maddison was afforded far too much time on the edge of the penalty area and he bent the ball beyond the dive of Emiliano Martinez and into the bottom corner.
It was two four minutes later as Martinez spilled Jamie Vardy's shot and Barnes was quickest to react, firing the ball into the roof of the net to give the visitors a commanding advantage at the break.
Villa lacked any sort of spark in the first half, but whatever Smith said to his side at the break worked a treat as Matt Targett's cross found its way to Traore, who fired home from close range three minutes into the second half.
However, Leicester held firm and Maddison tested Martinez with a free-kick before being forced off with an ankle problem and replaced by Nampalys Mendy after 64 minutes.
Vardy dragged wide as the game ambled to a conclusion and Villa tried to find the momentum to earn a point.
Trezeguet's weak effort rolled to Kasper Schmeichel as Leicester's resolve held firm through five minutes of stoppage time to continue their top-four charge.
0.9 - Under Dean Smith, Aston Villa have averaged 1.5 points-per-game in league competition when Jack Grealish has featured compared to 0.9 points-per-game without him, losing all three Premier League matches without the Englishman since the start of last season. Centrepiece. pic.twitter.com/QafEdQ7IKY— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 21, 2021
What the pundits said…
Alex Scott on Super Sunday:
"The impressive thing about this Brendan Rodgers side is the ability to deal with injuries. It shows their squad depth.
"They also bring in youngsters and the manager shows faith in those players.
"The tempo they started at showed they were not messing around. It caught Aston Villa off guard, and they were relentless. It was wave after wave of attack in the first half."
What the managers said…
Aston Villa boss Dean Smith: "It was a game of two halves. They started well, were aggressive and we played in front of them. We had to stretch the game and we did that in the second half.
"We never went anywhere with the ball in the first half, didn't put any balls in behind. In the second half we played in their half which is what we had to do. They were hanging on at the end to get the win.
"You are always going to miss a top-class player, take Jack Grealish out of any team and you'd miss him but the XI that was out there was good enough to win.
"We created chances, got in good areas, we have players who can score goals."
Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers: "I was absolutely delighted. I thought some of our football and the speed of our game was really really good. We didn't have too many concerns defensively.
"We gave away a cheap goal, and when you do that in the second half it gives the opponents a bit of momentum for the next 15-20 minutes. Once we weathered that I thought we still had chances in the second half.
"After midweek travel and a European game, the players really have to show their spirit and quality. I was so pleased and very proud of the team. Our energy was good, and the quality of our football was excellent. Some of our attacking play was very good."
On Leicester's top-four hopes: "We were able to go in and reflect on last season and go through it in pre-season. There's a greater calmness. We're playing some great football, but at times you have to dig in and have spirit, and we were able to do that."
Man of the match - Harvey Barnes
Sky Sports' Jamie Redknapp: "I have been so impressed with Harvey Barnes all season. He has so much power and pace. He must be a nightmare to play against. He's a player who is so high on confidence with a manager who really believes in him.
"You could see before half-time that Brendan was telling him, 'every time you get the ball, I want you to run with it'. It helped that he was up against a right-back in Ahmed Elmohamady that hasn't played a lot of football but he's been doing it all season.
"When you’re a young player it’s about adjusting and adapting. His confidence and finishing is much better. He looks like he’s going to score in every game he plays. He’s a great learner and a big talent."
"He's got tremendous quality and I'm really enjoying him at the moment. He might not get into the Euros as he's got a long list ahead of him in Rashford, Grealish, Sancho, Sterling, Saka to name but a few."
Sky Sports' Andy Hinchcliffe: "Harvey Barnes has really showcased his talents in this game. His strength, his speed and he scored as well. He's adding more goals to his game and that's absolutely vital for his development. Surely Gareth Southgate, watching on, has to have been impressed with his performance."
Opta stats - Leicester's impressive away form continues
- Leicester City have won back-to-back away top-flight matches against Aston Villa for the first time since October 1960.
- They have now won 30 points away from home in the Premier League this season - accounting for three points per win all-time, the only top-flight campaign they have won more away points in was when they won the Premier League in 2015-16 (39).
- Aston Villa have won just one of their last 21 Premier League games against sides starting the day in the top three of the table (D4 L16), losing 11 of their last 12 such fixtures (W1).
- Brendan Rodgers has won all six of his away Premier League games against Aston Villa as a manager, his best such 100 per cent record versus an opponent in the competition.
- Since his Premier League debut in August 2018, Leicester's James Maddison has scored more goals from outside the area than any other player (11) - indeed, this was his eighth goal of the season, his best scoring campaign in the top flight.
- Since Bertrand Traore's first Premier League start for Aston Villa in November 2020, only Jack Grealish (10) has been directly involved in more goals for the club in the competition than him (8 - 5 goals, 3 assists).
Aston Villa travel to Leeds next Saturday, live on Sky Sports Premier League; kick-off 5.30pm.
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Meanwhile, Leicester are back in Europa League action on Thursday when they face Slavia Prague in the second leg of their last-32 clash before facing Arsenal next Sunday; kick-off 12pm.