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Iheanacho equaliser leaves Leicester's Carabao Cup semi-final with Aston Villa finely poised

It’s all to play for in the return leg at Villa Park.

Leicester City's Kelechi Iheanacho scores against Aston Villa.
Leicester City's Kelechi Iheanacho scores against Aston Villa.

KELECHI IHEANACHO’S LATE goal spared Leicester City’s blushes and secured a 1-1 draw at home to Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, leaving the tie in the balance.

Brendan Rodgers’ Foxes went into the match on the back of three successive wins across all competitions, but they struggled to make the most of their superiority in tonight’s clash, with Iheanacho’s late equaliser the best they could muster.

For all of Leicester’s first-half dominance, Villa were the more effective in the final third, opening the scoring just before the half-hour mark through Frederic Guilbert and then going agonisingly close to a second when Ezri Konsa was denied by the crossbar.

Villa’s desire to attack vanished entirely in the second half as Leicester desperately attempted to break them down and eventually substitute Iheanacho capitalised on a defensive mishap to prevent a first-leg defeat.

Leicester initially had little difficulty establishing control, as they created several opportunities during the early exchanges – the best of which arrived in the 22nd minute, when Jamie Vardy’s effort from a tight angle was blocked by Orjan Nyland in the Villa goal.

Villa scored against the run of play soon after through Guilbert, who threw himself into the danger zone to prod Anwar El Ghazi’s cross past Kasper Schmeichel.

The Leicester goalkeeper was fortunate to not be picking the ball out of the net for a second time just before the break as he was beaten to a free-kick delivery by Konsa, but his header came back off the bar.

Leicester’s grip on proceedings only tightened after the break, but Nyland continued to frustrate, rushing out to thwart James Maddison just past the hour when the midfielder had brilliantly made space for himself.

But Nyland was helpless 16 minutes from time, as Iheanacho lashed past him after Douglas Luiz had been caught in possession by Hamza Choudhury.

Although they were expected to win at home, Leicester will still be confident of securing a spot in the final to – presumably – face Manchester City.

While Villa’s defence held out for a while, this match highlighted the gulf in quality between the two sets of players – surely Leicester will not be this wasteful next time.

The return leg is set for 28 January, and away goals and extra time do not apply to the competition’s semi-finals. If the tie remains level after 90 minutes in the return leg at Villa Park, it will go straight to a penalty shootout. 

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