Match report and highlights as Leicester and Aston Villa play out a dull goalless draw in a Midlands derby at the King Power Stadium, despite Jamie Vardy's return from injury for the Foxes
Saturday 23 April 2022 20:43, UK
Leicester and Aston Villa played out a dull goalless draw as Jamie Vardy's Foxes return from injury ended in uninspiring fashion.
In a far from lively Midlands derby, both sides controlled parts of the King Power Stadium encounter but the lack of a cutting edge in the final third meant they had to settle for a goalless draw.
James Maddison went closest for Leicester in the first half when his free-kick from 30 yards fell just wide of Emiliano Martinez's goal, while Villa substitute Emiliano Buendia curled wide late on in their best chance of the game.
For the hosts, Vardy's return via a 70th-minute substitution was a positive, but the Foxes' talisman was barely involved in the final exchanges of the game.
Brendan Rodgers' Leicester side also avoided any injuries ahead of their Europa Conference League semi-final clash with Jose Mourinho's Roma on Thursday.
Meanwhile, for Steven Gerrard's Villa, it was a fourth straight game without a goal from open play, with Leon Bailey and Ollie Watkins joining Buendia in failing to make the best of their good opportunities.
Leicester manager Rodgers made four changes to his side, with the likes of Ricardo Pereira, Kelechi Iheanacho, Harvey Barnes and Jonny Evans given a break ahead of their first-ever European semi-final on Thursday, with Patson Daka, James Justin and Ademola Lookman given chances to impress from the off.
But the first half began as a difficult watch with both sides carrying the ball into decent areas, but lacking in final-ball quality.
Villa enjoyed the clearest chance of the opening 45 minutes from open play as Watkins pounced on Wesley Fofana's dallying underneath the ball and crossed for Bailey in the box. The Villa man, brought in for Danny Ings in attack, could only fire over with a first-time effort.
Leicester then tried to up the ante and the impressive Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall beat Ezri Konsa down the left and crossed for Justin, who could only fire over at the back post before fouling Ashley Young with his follow through.
The only real shot on target came from the visitors as Watkins linked up well with Phillipe Coutinho before firing a low effort at goal which Kasper Schmeichel held easily, before Leicester came closest to scoring.
Maddison was fouled by Bailey on the edge of the area and the hosts' No 10 took the resulting set-piece. The Leicester midfielder's effort troubled Martinez but just missed the target after he lifted the free-kick over the wall.
Tyrone Mings enjoyed another decent chance as he headed over a corner from close range and the half-time whistle came as a relief to most at the King Power due to the lack of quality - although things did not improve after the break.
It was Villa who had the vast majority of the second-half opportunities, with Watkins looking particularly bright in the opening minutes of the half.
The England international spun Fofana down the left before dragging his effort wide of goal, before testing Schmeichel at his near post but that chance resulted in an easy tip round the post for the Leicester shot-stopper.
Dewsbury-Hall cut inside and fired well over the bar for Leicester, with that opportunity being followed by Vardy's introduction to the game - which earned the 10-goal striker a standing ovation at the King Power Stadium.
But the 35-year-old ended up touching the ball just nine times in his 27 minutes on the pitch - with just two coming in the penalty box - and it was Villa who had the final big chance of the game.
A loose ball fell to substitute Buendia in the final few minutes of the drab contest and the Argentine curled inches past Schmeichel's post, arguably the closest anyone came to scoring in a poor affair.
This was Leicester's 50th game of a long season that has seen them venture into the semi-finals of European competition for the first time - and Rodgers admitted that this arduous campaign is having an impact on his side's cohesion up front.
"In the last couple of games, we played really well, but in the final third we couldn't find the killer pass," said Rodgers. "Maybe that is a lack of energy because of the number of games we've played - the speed of our attacking combinations is not quite as we want it. Our heart and effort is there though.
"We got the clean sheet. In the last 15 minutes we tired a bit."
Villa boss Gerrard, meanwhile, was delighted to see a clean sheet after conceding four goals last time out to Tottenham, and the visiting manager admitted that tactical tweaks were needed in defence after four straight defeats going into this contest.
"It's enough to satisfy me because after four defeats, it's important you stop that," Gerrard said. "I think our performance today was very strong and very good and we came here to win the game and unfortunately we couldn't do that. But when you can't, it's important that you don't lose.
"We've come up against a strong team today with very technically gifted players but over the course of the 90 minutes we had slightly the better chances.
"Everyone was all in, everyone was fighting for the cause. We conceded four in the last game so we needed to reset a few things. I'm sure our goalkeeper and defenders are very happy with their performances from a defensive point of view."
● Leicester City are unbeaten in six games in the league on home soil (W3 D3), their longest run without defeat at home since a run of 11 between April and December 2019 (W8 D3).
● Aston Villa are without a win in five Premier League games (D1 L4), after winning three in a row before that; they last endured a longer winless run in the top-flight between February and July 2020 (10 games without a victory).
● In all competitions, Leicester have lost just one of their last eight games (W3 D4), after losing each of the two directly before that.
● Aston Villa have played more Premier League games on St George's Day without ever winning than any other side in the competition (5 - D3 L2).
● Leicester failed to find the back of the net at home in the Premier League for the first time in 10 games, after drawing a blank in two in a row directly before that, against Arsenal and Chelsea.
Up next for Leicester is the first leg of their Europa Conference League semi-final against Jose Mourinho's Roma at the King Power Stadium on Thursday. Then the Foxes return to Premier League action on Sunday, May 1 at Tottenham; kick-off 2pm.
Next for Aston Villa is a match against their old boss Dean Smith, as his relegation-threatened Norwich side go to Villa Park next Saturday; kick-off 3pm.