A quick turn round from the trip to Verona and it’s off to see Aston Villa play Leicester City in the Semi Final second leg of the Carabao Cup.
The fans outside were happy as they ambled to the third second leg final in four years. The omens were good having won through the previous two but tonight it was against Leicester City who trounced Villa at home 1-4 in the League. This though was a cup game and Villa had looked good in the first leg 1-1 draw. The belief was there despite the betting industry having Leicester as odds on favourites. Villa Park has seen many Semi Finals and great games but most fans were buzzing and only looking back to last week when Villa dug out an improbable 2-1 win in the last minute at home to Watford to move out of the relegation places.
Once inside Villa Park it was straight to buy some chips which I didn’t smother with curry sauce to enable me to compare them with others. The chips were hot, large, thick and well cooked but flowery scoring 68. But the best chips of the season so far were the ones made for me by my daughter on my 70th Birthday card, definitely a score of 100.
The ground filled quickly and the full house soon found their voice.
Aston Villa 2 Leicester City 1
(3-2 on aggregate)
Leicester were the first to settle and if it wasn’t for Orja Nylands acrobatics to palm shots with his left hand round the post they would have taken an unassailable lead. On twelve minutes though Villa Park erupted as Jack Grealish running into the penalty area somehow wrong footed the Leicester defence by back healing a ball with his right foot onto his left and into the path of Matt Target who was all alone on the left side of the penalty area. From an acute angle he smashed it across Schmeichel into the far corner of the net.
Nyland was again soon in action as he heroically managed to get his fingertips to a Youri Tielmans blockbuster to send it onto the bar and out of play. It all happened so quickly that it wasn’t until it was replayed on the screen that the crowd gasped and roared enthusiastically. Villa were letting the opposition come on to them but were still being dangerous on the break. During this period of play they had to endure a strong shout for a penalty when a shot seemed to hit Marvelous Nakamba’s arm. It was waived away by the referee and his decision was confirmed by a VAR review.
The half ended with Villa still leading but with the home crowd anxious for a larger lead.
Villa kept Leicester at bay and created good chances including a second for new signing Mbwana Samatta that the striker somehow contrived to miss completely from close range. His second miss of the match but at least he showed great promise in being in the right position.
Vardy came on to change Leicester’s fortunes and in the 72nd minute Harvey Baines hit a low cross in from the left which Iheanacho confidently tapped home.
It was now a tense open game, first Maddison came close for the visitors and Trezeguet fluffed a good chance when through. It seemed that Evans header that went wide from Maddison’s corner in the 89th minute would be the final act.
With the last two minutes of added time left and penalties looming a high cross from the right by Elmohamady, who had not long replaced Guilbert, looped over the back peddling defence to reach Trezeguet at the far post who guided it past Schmeichel and into the net. The Villa players celebrated as some Leicester players lay prostrate on the ground. Trezeguet stayed knelt on the ground as if praying for thanks for the delivery of the goal made by the two Egyptians. It was not all over though as Leicester were awarded a free-kick in the centre of the of the pitch within scoring distance but the ballooning of the ball over the bar was the last of the action and Villa were through to the March 1st Wembley final.
The pitch invasion was disappointing but that couldn’t take away the relief and happiness of the fans. A hug with my son, songs and smiles everywhere were continued as fans walked away from the ground.
After beating the team that recently beat them 1-4 at home they now face the team that recently beat them 1-6 in the Premiership, Manchester City.
An away trip to Bournemouth on Saturday is another perhaps more important final in their fight to retain their Premier League status.