Ezri Konsa double adds to Steven Gerrard's excellent start as Aston Villa climb into top half

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  • Aston Villa
    Aston Villa
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  • Steven Gerrard
    Steven Gerrard
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Ezri Konsa double adds to Steven Gerrard's excellent start as Aston Villa climb into top half - Reuters
Ezri Konsa double adds to Steven Gerrard's excellent start as Aston Villa climb into top half - Reuters

Steven Gerrard already appears a shrewd appointment by Aston Villa and the feelgood factor around this new chapter in his career is tangible.

Gerrard’s start to Premier League management is gathering real momentum and this latest victory, over Brendan Rodgers, moved Villa above Leicester and into the top-ten of the table.

While Leicester’s season is threatening to unravel due to their defensive frailties, Gerrard has made a genuine statement of intent since quitting Rangers for the former European Cup winners last month.

This was the first time Villa this season have won after going behind, and he now has three victories from four matches ahead of his emotional return to Liverpool this weekend.

“Taking nine points from 12 is a big start for us, and I’d have taken that before a ball was kicked, but there’s loads of work still to do,” he said.

“We’ve come in on the back of five successive defeats but the reaction of the players has been excellent across the board. We want to improve the position we’re in and we want to be bold. There are some teething problems but I believe we can still get better.

“Liverpool next week is one for me to deal with in terms of my emotions, and I won’t make it about me. I just need to get the players ready and go there with confidence and belief.”

Ezri Konsa got the faintest of touches to score the first goal - PA
Ezri Konsa got the faintest of touches to score the first goal - PA

In front of England manager Gareth Southgate, centre-half Ezri Konsa produced an excellent performance and scored both Villa’s goals, in a breathless, chaotic encounter.

There were other fine displays, from midfielders John McGinn and Marvelous Nakamba and forward Ollie Watkins, and Gerrard has clearly inspired a reaction.

Leicester’s season is threatening to go in another direction. Rodgers has not seen his team secure a clean sheet in the league since the opening day and their inability to defend set-pieces is a huge concern.

They did take the lead through Harvey Barnes but it was a difficult evening for Leicester, who now face a crucial Europa League group decider against Napoli on Thursday night.

Rodgers said: “I’m very frustrated because we played well in the first-half but our Achilles heel is defending at set-pieces. It can sap the confidence out of the team.

“We put a lot of analysis and work into it but you have to do your job. We lose our concentration and Konsa scores the second goal. These are undoing good parts of our game and it’s something we have to fix or the fine margins will go against us.

“Even when we’ve won this season we’ve made [defensive] mistakes. If we can get the solution to do that it will give us that more solidity at the back.”

Leicester did start impressively, with Jamie Vardy dropped to the bench for “squad rotation”, and his replacement Patson Daka provided the assist for the opening goal.

Daka appeared to have lost possession 30 yards from goal but recovered the ball to release Barnes inside the Leicester penalty area.

Barnes took one touch and then side-footed his shot through Konsa’s legs and into the far corner.

Villa had started poorly but equalised 170 seconds later when the visitors failed to clear a Douglas Luiz free-kick. Matty Cash headed the ball back into the danger area and Emi Buendia was left alone to beat Kasper Schmeichel.

Konsa claimed the last touch, brushing the ball over the line with his studs.

The game then became increasingly frantic, with confusion and anger taking hold in added time when Jacob Ramsey appeared to score a second goal for Villa, converting from close range after Schmeichel spilled the ball.

Yet the goal was over-ruled after a Var check, with referee Michael Oliver concluding that Schmeichel was in control of the ball, even though he had only one hand on it.

With mutiny in the air, Villa were now inspired and did take the lead in the 54th minute when Konsa rose to head in McGinn’s corner at the back-post.

Rodgers introduced Vardy with 25 minutes left, but Villa were still creating chances with Schmeichel producing a fine save from Watkins and Ramsey lifting the ball over from a decent position.

Leicester did respond and Barnes was denied a second goal by an outstanding save from Emiliano Martinez, with the Villa goalkeeper diving to tip the ball over the bar.

Rodgers introduced Vardy with 25 minutes left, but Villa were still creating chances with Schmeichel producing a fine save from Ollie Watkins and Ramsey lifting the ball over from a decent position.

And Konsa also nodded in the second - Getty
And Konsa also nodded in the second - Getty

Leicester did respond and Barnes was denied a second goal by an outstanding save from Emiliano Martinez, with the Villa goalkeeper diving to tip the ball over the bar.

With Leicester now dominant, Gerrard made a tactical tweak by opting for five at the back, which ultimately proved a shrewd move.

Five minutes of added time cranked up the tension, with Schmeichel venturing forward for a late corner, but Gerrard’s start at Villa continues to impress.

Aston Villa vs Leicester - as it happened -

06:27 PM

Full time: Aston Villa 2 Leicester 1

That's it! Gerrard is onto the pitch to celebrate with his guys.

06:25 PM

90+ mins: Aston Villa 2 Leicester 1

Leicester have a dead ball. Schmeichel is up for it. He loves a bit of drama this one. Half cleared, Kasper stays up.. eventually there is a foul by Leicester. Villa are going to hold on here.

06:23 PM

87 mins: Aston Villa 2 Leicester 1

Typical battling from John McGinn, If you're being picky, you'd say he's fouled about three Aston Villa players in as many seconds there. He can do whatever he likes, I say.

06:22 PM

86 mins: Aston Villa 2 Leicester 1

Leicester have been attacking this half but they haven't really fashioned all that many chances. Loads of corners but few actual chances.

Kelechi Iheanacho comes on for Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall.

06:18 PM

82 mins: Aston Villa 2 Leicester 1

Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall has an effort from the edge of the box after a James Maddison corner but he cannot make it count.

06:18 PM

80 mins: Aston Villa 2 Leicester 1

Unrelated or not, his manager has had enough of Ramsey and takes him off. Tuanzebe on.

06:12 PM

77 mins: Aston Villa 2 Leicester 1

Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall slaloms into the area and is somewhere near the foot of Douglas Luiz. He has a little roll around on the floor, looking up at Michael Oliver - who is bang on the spot - as he does. No penalty. Villa make their feelings felt.

06:09 PM

74 mins: Aston Villa 2 Leicester 1

Martinez in the Villa goal has just produced an absolutely world-class save. A looping header, wonderfully acrobatic stop.

06:08 PM

72 mins: Aston Villa 2 Leicester 1

Oooh Villa really should have scored. Buendia with good work down the side, plays it inside and Jacob Ramsey has an absolutely gilt-edged chance. Leans back and blooters it over the bar. Poor.

06:03 PM

70 mins: Aston Villa 2 Leicester 1

It is all Leicester. Really dominating.

But Villa having a couple of moments on the break.

Watkins exchanges a pass with John McGinn but fails to beat Kasper.

05:59 PM

65 mins: Aston Villa 2 Leicester 1

Vardy is on. He is joint-top with Ian Wright for most PL goals scored after his 30th birthday. 93. A veritable Goochie.

05:58 PM

64 mins: Aston Villa 2 Leicester 1

Maddison finds himself a bit of space and wallops the ball not fire wide.

05:55 PM

62 mins: Aston Villa 2 Leicester 1

The ageless Ashley Young (well, he's 36) races down the left and gets away a shot, that is blocked.

05:52 PM

58 mins: Aston Villa 2 Leicester 1

Watkins and Evans are tangling for the ball. The former wins, powers towards goal, and tucks it away - but the whistle has already gone against Ollie.

05:48 PM

GOAL! Aston Villa 2 Leicester 1 (Konsa 54)

Deep corner, Konsa with the header, and he had planted it home at the back stick. Ten times they have conceded from set pieces in 15 games. That is dreadful.

Fair play to Martin Tyler. Just as the corner was given he suggested M Cash shouldn't be too sad because, "a corner can be as good as a goal against Leicester."

05:47 PM

53 mins: Aston Villa 1 Leicester 1

Ha ha ha. Ollie Watkins drives forward, gets into the box, and goes himself. He had Cash, unmarked, six feet away to his right and he only had to pass it to him to give his colleague a tap-in. Cash hurls himself on the floor in a tantrummy rage.

The shot rebounded for a corner.

05:44 PM

48 mins: Aston Villa 1 Leicester 1

Ball is played out to the left, where Ashley Young has time and space. Tries to curl it into the corner with his right but cannot bring it back.

05:41 PM

46 mins: Aston Villa 1 Leicester 1

Soyuncu penalised for a foul. Freekick is played in. Evans and Watkins with a beefy clash.

05:38 PM

The players are back out

Still seems to be plenty of spice from the Villa fans. It's 1-1.

05:21 PM

Half time: Aston Villa 1 Leicester 1

The half comes to a close with Villa's fans booing in a rage, and their players complaining bitterly to the ref. Both of these continue as the players and officials walk off. An exquisite bit of audio on Sky Sports as Michael Oliver leaves the field of play, cutting to commercial as a Brummie in the crowd shouts "Banker! Banker! Banker!" at the ref. Or at least, a word that rhymes with banker...

05:20 PM

44 mins: Aston Villa 1 Leicester 1

Villa get down the left and cross deep. Cash nods it back across and its panic stations. Schmeichel, in desperation, stretches out a big hand. He's got his paw on top of the ball, but Ramsey smashes the ball into the net. It's given as a goal but then disallowed on VAR. I guess Michael Oliver and company are of the view that Schmeichel "had the ball under control", I guess. Come off it. He was deemed to "be in possession of the ball".

05:12 PM

40 mins: Aston Villa 1 Leicester 1

Ball pumped down the middle, Daka nods it down to Maddison, who hits the shot with the left. Keeper has it covered.

05:11 PM

38 mins: Aston Villa 1 Leicester 1

Villa are under the pump here. Barnes spinning away from Cash, who goes to ground and then makes a bit of contact. Barnes would have had a pen there had he hit the deck.

05:09 PM

34 mins: Aston Villa 1 Leicester 1

Barnes is really causing some troubles.

05:06 PM

32 mins: Aston Villa 1 Leicester 1

James Maddison with a good low shot, Cash throws himself in the way.

05:05 PM

31 mins: Aston Villa 1 Leicester 1

Super John McGinn is making his presence felt, a typically bustling performance is starting to take control of this.

05:00 PM

27 mins: Aston Villa 1 Leicester 1

Nice fluid direct move from Villa, driving up the pitch vertically and also switching the play from left to right. Cash arrives from the right and hits a decent effort.

04:57 PM

24 mins: Aston Villa 1 Leicester 1

That goal is being awarded to Konsa after all- he did indeed get a faint touch. Was going in anyway. Hard lines on Buendia.

04:55 PM

22 mins: Aston Villa 1 Leicester 1

Both defences are going to get a rocket at half time.

04:52 PM

20 mins: Aston Villa 1 Leicester 1

Leicester have a set piece of their own, Emily Martinez claims the corner ball with some authority.

04:50 PM

GOAL! Aston Villa 1 Leicester 1 (Konsa 17) - awarded the goal after all!

The hosts are right back in it, from a set piece. Buendia is making a nuisance of himself in the LCFC box, Kasper Schmeichel starts to come, but cannot get there, it's played back in. Nodded back in by Buendia, Konsa might have got the last touch. LCFC protest (I think they want offside) but there is a Leicester man on the line alongside Schmeichel so they can forget that. They just have to take their medicine: they have failed yet again to defend a set piece, and Villa are back on terms.

04:45 PM

GOAL! Aston Villa 0 Leicester 1 (Barnes 14)

Harvey Barnes finds himself free in the the inside left channel, unmarked in the box, and he takes his time to pass the ball into the corner of the net.

That came about because Daka was snapping and pinching the ball off Villa defenders. Really putting himself about.

"Plenty of pats on the back for Patson," says Martin T.

04:41 PM

8 mins: Aston Villa 0 Leicester 0

Daka looks bright as anything, harrying dear old Tyrone Mings here into a near-error.

Aston Villa's Tyrone Mings in action with Leicester City's Patson Daka  - Action Images via Reuters
Aston Villa's Tyrone Mings in action with Leicester City's Patson Daka - Action Images via Reuters

He's got his eye on Jamie Vardy's job, young Daka, by all accounts.

04:38 PM

6 mins: Aston Villa 0 Leicester 0

04:36 PM

5 mins: Aston Villa 0 Leicester 0

Ashley Young produces the first moment of note for the hosts as he surges upfield and hits a long-ranger that deflects behind for a corner. LCFC are poor at corners but deal with this one ok.

04:35 PM

4 mins: Aston Villa 0 Leicester 0

Villa have not woken up yet. They're allowing Leicester the run of the place.

04:34 PM

3 mins: Aston Villa 0 Leicester 0

Soyuncu drives forward, top knot looking splendid, but cannot effect a shot.

04:32 PM

1 mins: Aston Villa 0 Leicester 0

Leicester with a bright start, Harvey Barnes is making his presence felt.

04:31 PM

The players are out on the pitch

Leicester in an unattractive grey with pink trim.

03:56 PM

Jamie Vardy's having... a little sit-down

Jamie Vardy is named on Leicester's bench for their trip to Aston Villa.

The striker is replaced by Patson Daka while Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall comes in for his first Premier League start. Boubakary Soumare is the man to make way.

Jacob Ramsey and Ashley Young return for the hosts with Matt Targett and Leon Bailey injured.

03:53 PM

Friends reunited

Steven Gerrard and Brendan Rodgers back in the day - Reuters
Steven Gerrard and Brendan Rodgers back in the day - Reuters

03:35 PM

The teams

Aston Villa: Martinez, Cash, Konsa, Mings, Young, McGinn, Nakamba, Douglas Luiz, Buendia, Watkins, Jacob Ramsey. Subs: Sanson, Steer, Tuanzebe, El Ghazi, Hause, Philogene-Bidace, Carney Chukwuemeka, Davis, Iroegbunam.

Leicester: Schmeichel, Castagne, Evans, Soyuncu, Thomas, Dewsbury-Hall, Ndidi, Lookman, Maddison, Barnes, Daka. Subs: Vardy, Albrighton, Ward, Iheanacho, Perez, Choudhury, Vestergaard, Daley-Campbell, Soumare.

Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland)

01:02 PM

To the Midlands, then!

Good afternoon and welcome to our live blog of the action from Villa Park, where Aston Villa welcome Leicester City. Among the many interesting subplots of course is the renewal of relations between home manager Steven Gerrard and away manager Brendan Rodgers, one time Liverpool captain and manager, and Old Firm rivals during their respective time in Glasgow.

There was a spicy bit in one of Gerrard's books (2016 autobio) about the fateful game against Chelsea when Rodgers arguably got the tactics wrong, and then Gerrard inarguably fell over:

“I’ve never been able to say this in public before but I was seriously concerned that we thought we could blow Chelsea away. I sensed an over-confidence in Brendan’s team talks. We played into Chelsea’s hands. I feared it then and I know it now.”

Gerrard however said this week that he recognises how difficult management is, a lot harder than it looked when he was a player.

“Brendan is a top coach. I think the biggest thing was his delivery on the training pitch. He is one of many managers who I watch closely and, in my position, when you are new and starting out and trying to gain that experience, then they are the type of people you try to learn from.”

Talking of learning, it sounds like Gerrard is enjoying bringing on some of his younger guys, such as Ollie Watkins.

Watkins was left out of the most recent England squad a month ago but Gerrard is confident Gareth Southgate will pick him again if he continues to perform for Villa.

"Listen, I think in situations like this you just let the football do the talking, and Ollie has certainly done that in his first three games with me," said Gerrard.

"Manchester City was probably his strongest performance. I thought he really occupied Manchester City's two defenders for the whole game - he looked powerful, he looked strong, his hold-up play was terrific. He scored a fantastic goal, which was only a half-chance really.

"It's been a pleasure to work with him for three weeks and I'm looking forward to the future. I'm delighted to have him here.

"Ollie has just got to be the best he can be for Aston Villa and I'm sure that will be enough for him to get back in the England squad and I'm sure Gareth Southgate will be watching him closely.

"But the best thing you can do to get into England squads is to be consistent and do your stuff for your club, and Ollie is certainly doing that."

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