Second half show gets Aston Villa past Leicester in FA Cup

Tim Sherwood watches his new charges from the stands as Shay Given rolls back the years

 

Aston Villa 2 Leicester City 1

This was supposed to be a watching brief for Tim Sherwood but the new Aston Villa manager was never going to be able to stay far from the action and an impromptu half-time team-talk appeared to do the trick. Sat in the director’s box alongside Tom Fox, Villa’s chief executive, and Paddy Reilly, the club’s director of recruitment, Sherwood made his way down to the home dressing room at the interval and whatever he said had the desired effect.

Desperately poor in the opening 45 minutes, Villa played with much more conviction after the restart and got the reward their improved second-half performance deserved when Leandro Bacuna, who barely kicked a ball under Paul Lambert this season, delivered the goal that set them on their way to a place in the FA Cup quarter-finals.

Sherwood had sensed it was coming. The 46-year-old was up on his feet as Bacuna glided across the edge of the Leicester penalty area and moments later the former Tottenham Hotspur manager had both hands in the air. The celebration was even more animated – a bit of shadow boxing – when Scott Sinclair, on loan from Manchester City, doubled Villa’s lead in the 90th minute after Mark Schwarzer made a hash of dealing with the winger’s low shot.

There was still time for Leicester to pull a goal back and leave Sherwood shuffling rather uncomfortably in his seat in the final seconds. Andrej Kramaric, with a superb header from Jeffrey Schlupp’s left-wing cross, beat Shay Given inside his near post and Leicester momentarily threatened to spoil Sherwood’s day. Villa, however, held on to give the new manager the best possible start.

All smiles early on, when his face flashed up on the big screens to applause from the Villa supporters, Sherwood had been wearing a very different expression towards the end of an opening 45 minutes during which Schwarzer never had a save to make.

Villa, after a bright opening in which Andreas Weimann shot wildly over, quickly lost their way and could count themselves fortunate not to concede in the 12th minute. Marcin Wasilewski met a Matty James corner with a glancing header at the near post and the ball clipped the outside of the far upright.

Given had to come to Villa’s rescue later in the half when the 38-year-old produced a wonderful one-handed save. Schlupp laid the ball back from close to the byline, Esteban Cambiasso allowed it to run behind him and James strode forward to strike a ferocious left-footed shot from the edge of the penalty area that was heading for the top corner. Given, stretching every sinew, got his fingertips to the ball and quite brilliantly deflected it behind.

The improvement in Villa after the interval was marked. Within two minutes Bacuna crossed for Fabian Delph to head over and moments later Schwarzer bravely dashed off his line to save at Christian Benteke’s feet. There was more urgency about Villa’s play and eventually it brought reward. Picking up possession from Ron Vlaar in the inside left channel, Bacuna ran at Danny Simpson, cut inside and curled a sumptuous right-footed shot from just inside the area that found the far corner.

Although Benteke squandered a chance to make it 2-0 when the Belgian sprinted clear only to shoot over, Leicester were still in the game and Given was called upon to deny Kramaric moments before Vlaar produced a superb block to thwart Riyad Mahrez. Sinclair, however, added a second for Villa when Schwarzer fumbled, and although Kramaric’s fine header gave the home supporters an anxious final few minutes, Villa did enough to get over the line and reach the last eight.

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