Foxes return to top of Premier League but only draw with bottom club Aston Villa
Published 16/01/2016 | 20:11
Leicester returned to the top of the Barclays Premier League despite being held to a 1-1 draw at Aston Villa.
Rudy Gestede rescued a point for the rock bottom hosts and denied the Foxes the chance to move further clear at the summit.
Shinji Okazaki opened the scoring but Mark Bunn saved Riyad Mahrez's first-half penalty and the Foxes were made to pay.
Arsenal will overtake Claudio Ranieri's side on goal difference with a draw at Stoke on Sunday with the Foxes a point ahead of the Gunners and Manchester City in their improbable title challenge.
The draw left battling Villa nine points from safety but boss Remi Garde can at least highlight improved performances in what seems like a futile struggle against the drop.
Both sides were unchanged from their midweek 1-0 wins but there was no hint of the first half drama to come during an drab opening.
There was little of note from either side, other than Jamie Vardy's flicked header on 13 minutes which dropped inches wide.
Bunn bizarrely flattened Vardy after rushing from his area, and was rightfully booked, but it was a low-key start until Libor Kozak missed a glorious chance after 20 minutes.
Robert Huth presented him with a clean run on goal after his miscued backpass but Kasper Schmeichel comfortably saved the striker's effort - which lacked any conviction.
Kozak's last goal came in December 2013 and his selection, after manager Garde said he could leave this month, still underlined how desperate Villa are.
It was a miss Villa were left to rue after Okazaki broke the deadlock on 29 minutes.
Leicester went route one as Vardy raced onto Schmeichel's kick and his audacious lob with the outside of his foot was clawed off the line by Bunn.
The keeper then tried to stop Okazaki's follow up but goal line technology showed the ball clearly went over.
Tails up, Leicester went for the kill and missed a golden chance to double their lead just four minutes later.
Villa were shell-shocked and conceded a penalty when Aly Cissokho blocked Mahrez's shot with his arm.
The defender was lucky to only be booked but was bailed out when Bunn dived to his right to save Mahrez's poor spot-kick - the winger's second successive penalty miss.
Villa's response was muted with Schmeichel claiming Cissokho's drive and - with dad Peter watching from the stands - he denied the defender again soon after the break.
Bunn then turned Danny Drinkwater's 20-yard effort over before Villa had a huge penalty claim rejected on 61 minutes.
Kozak and Huth tangled in the box as they challenged for Ashley Westwood's cross - the Leicester man's flailing arm caught the Villa striker - but referee Roger East dismissed home appeals.
The incident galvanised Villa and Bacuna wasted a fine chance when he shot straight at Schmeichel five minutes later.
But the Foxes almost doubled their lead soon after when Vardy outpaced the Villa defence and rounded Bunn. He was forced wide yet crossed for the onrushing Drinkwater, only for the midfielder to volley wide from eight yards.
Gaps had started to appear in the hosts' defence but it was Leicester who were breached with 15 minutes remaining.
Gestede had only been on the pitch eight minutes but levelled with his fifth goal of the season when he bulldozed through and his shot flew past Schmeichel after clipping Wes Morgan.
It lifted Villa Park but they failed to find a second goal and Vardy could have won it for Leicester in stoppage time when he thrashed over from an angle.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
"Much better performance today, dressing room will feel a brighter place, time to push on and drag a few in #UTV" - Stan Collymore was pleased by Aston Villa's display against another of his former clubs
Mark Bunn: 7
Leandro Bacuna: 6
Jores Okore: 6
Joleon Lescott: 6
Aly Cissokho: 5
Idrissa Gana: 7
Ashley Westwood: 6
Carles Gil: 6
Jordan Veretout: 6
Jordan Ayew: 7
Libor Kozak: 6
Rudy Gestede: 7
Scott Sinclair: 6
Kasper Schmeichel: 6
Danny Simpson: 6
Wes Morgan: 6
Robert Huth: 6
Christian Fuchs: 6
Riyad Mahrez: 5
Danny Drinkwater: 6
N'Golo Kante: 7
Marc Albrighton: 6
Shinji Okazaki: 7
Jamie Vardy: 7
Ritchie de Laet: 6
Leonardo Ulloa: 6
Demarai Gray: 6
Idrissa Gana - The midfielder has struggled to adapt to the pace of the Barclays Premier League since arriving in the summer from Lille, but was key as Villa battled back for a deserved point. Villa need more performances from Gana before May if they are going to stand any chance of survival.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Mark Bunn saved Villa and denied Leicester all three points when he beat out Riyad Mahrez's first-half penalty. The goalkeeper - making just his second league appearance in almost three years - guessed right to keep the score at 1-0. Coming just four minutes after Shinji Okazaki's opener, Villa could have crumbled but Bunn helped them ultimately claim a point.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
Riyad Mahrez has been one of Leicester's stars of their season but the winger is in danger of losing penalty duties. He has now missed two straight spot-kicks after seeing his effort saved by Bunn after Aly Cissokho's handball. Artur Boruc kept out his last penalty in the Foxes' 0-0 draw with Bournemouth and his latest miss could see Jamie Vardy take over.
VIEW FROM THE DUGOUT
Leicester were far from their best and should have been clear by half-time and were left to pay the price. Their unlikely title charge shows no sign of ending as they edged ahead at the top of the table despite the disappointing point. Villa boss Remi Garde will be upset their efforts did not earn a victory but there is plenty to be positive about.
Aston Villa v Wycombe (FA Cup third round replay, January 19)
Leicester v Tottenham (FA Cup third round replay, January 20)
Leicester may have seen victory slip out of their hands, but manager Claudio Ranieri remained philosophical after the 1-1 draw.
"We started very well," he told BBC Sport. "Maybe Aston Villa were nervous at the beginning.
"We scored a goal and had the chance to close the match but we missed the penalty and Aston Villa was regenerated.
"The second half was a big battle and we were unlucky to concede because the striker touched the ball with his hands and the referee didn't see it.
"It was a pity because we were in control. Of course, they tried to push but there was no clear action from them and we missed two chances on the counter, but that is football. We take one point, it's okay."
Villa striker Rudy Gestede, who came off the bench to equalise for the hosts, felt they should have been celebrating back-to-back wins.
"I think we deserve better than a point," he told Sky Sports.
"They had one good chance, and we a few. We are a bit disappointed - we know we have to win games now, but we take the one point. It's still okay.
"It keeps the momentum going, Leicester are a good team, but the next one is very important.
"We have to keep this confidence. It will be tough but we have no choice but to fight."