Super-sub Kel' keeps Leicester cup hopes alive
Leicester City 1 Aston Villa 1
Kelechi Iheanacho continued his love affair with the League Cup last night by coming off the bench to rescue this semi-final first leg for Leicester City against Aston Villa.
Iheanacho is also earning himself a reputation as something of a "super-sub" and his second-half goal, just five minutes after his introduction, set up the second leg at Villa Park later this month.
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It also meant that Iheanacho has scored in each of his three appearances in this competition this season.
Up until his strike it had seemed that Villa would claim an unlikely victory, inspired as they were, again, by the impressive Jack Grealish, who would have taken the headlines had the visitors held on to win.
Claret smoke mingled with the drizzle that swirled around the King Power Stadium as Villa fans celebrated and flares were let off after an unlikely goal before the half hour.
Their depleted team had been dominated and yet they took the lead with, inevitably, it involving Grealish. He started the counter-attack which ended with Anwar El Ghazi crossing from the left and Frederic Guilbert catching out Ben Chilwell as he stole in ahead of the wing-back to stab the ball home from close-range.
It was Villa's first attack. Up until then they had been dominated, with Leicester pouring forward and going close when Dennis Praet slipped a pass to Ayoze Perez and his cross-shot took a slight deflection which diverted it past the post.
Soon after Jamie Vardy should have put Leicester in front as he ran on to Perez's astute pass with Tyrone Mings playing him onside. With only Orjan Nyland to beat, Vardy took a touch too many, allowing the Norwegian to smother his eventual shot.
Villa manager Dean Smith's line-up spoke of containment. There were discussions on the touchline between Smith and assistant Richard O'Kelly and the gestures said it all as they urged their players to be more compact and further frustrate Leicester.
It should have been a second goal for Villa, with Grealish again involved as he swung in a free-kick from the left that Kasper Schmeichel was beaten to by Ezri Konsa, with the defender's header cannoning back off the crossbar.
The home frustration grew. Vardy was booked for catching Konsa late and Villa shrewdly looked for Grealish to hold the ball up and buy them time.
Leicester's formation - three at the back - was not working but, above all, they needed to get James Maddison further forward and so Hamza Choudhury was introduced.
The onslaught from Leicester became ever more intense. A series of corners were won, with Mings repelling Leicester's attacks. The pressure was relentless and it seemed improbable that Villa would hold out.
Maddison threatened again but again he was thwarted by Nyland before, finally, Villa were undone by a mistake as Douglas Luiz was caught in possession by Choudhury and Vardy ferried the ball on to substitute Iheanacho, who pushed it into space and slammed a rising shot high into the net.
© Daily Telegraph, London