Jack Grealish was absent as Aston Villa fell to a 2-1 defeat to Leicester City at Villa Park with Dean Smith unsure how long his captain will be out for.
First half goals from James Maddison and Harvey Barnes was enough for the Foxes to claim a 2-1 victory, despite Bertrand Traore’s early second half goal.
Leicester City move up to second in the table, as Villa’s European hopes start to fade- now find themselves seven points behind Chelsea in fifth.
Aston Villa only managed two shots on target as they struggled to create chances without Jack Grealish who was absent in the league for the first time since November 2019.
Brendan Rodgers’ side were quick off the blocks and within 40-seconds called Emiliano Martinez into action. Ricardo Pereira’s left footed shot from the edge of the box lacked power and in the end was easily saved by the Argentine shot stopper.
Villa were forced to defend for most the opening 15-minutes but managed to fashion a half chance after impressive play from Ollie Watkins. The striker’s channel movement stretched the Foxes and opened space for Anwar El Ghazi to square to Bertrand Traore whose goal bound shot was blocked.
City’s early dominance paid off when Maddison opened the scoring after 20-minutes. The Villa defence sat off the No.10 who placed the ball perfectly away from Martinez into the corner via the inside of the post.
Their lead quickly doubled when Barnes was first to react to Martinez’ initial save. Jamie Vardy’s powerful shot was parried into the path of the winger who blasted into the roof of the net.
With England manager Gareth Southgate watching on, Barnes’ second league goal in a matter of weeks only increase his chances of a place in the summer’s Euro’s squad.
Leicester have the best away record in the league and after their first half performance looked on course to win their ninth of the season. Kasper Schmeichal had been a bystander between the sticks with Villa failing to register a shot on target.
Whatever Smith said at half time to spark a reaction worked instantly as Traore gave Villa a lifeline two minutes in. Matt Targett’s whipped in cross fell to kindly to the unmarked forward who fired in from within six yards.
Traore now has five league goals this season, with Targett recording his second assist of his campaign.
Maddison went close to scoring his second from a free kick on the hour mark, but was denied by Martinez. The effort was to be the midfielders last involvement as he was forced off after suffering a knock to his hip.
Villa’s struggle to create chances continued and as timed passed by so did their hopes of getting back on level terms. The closest they came was from a Targett cross which Traore almost connected with, however Luke Thomas defended strongly to deny an equaliser with 12-minutes remaining.
The introduction of Trezeguet and Jacob Ramsey resulted in more creativity for the hosts, although, despite their late pressure and bombardment of crosses into the City penalty area, the Villans were unable to level and suffered their fifth home defeat of the season.
Smith unsure on Grealish injury timescale
Grealish had started all of Villa’s last 48 league matches but in his absence the Villains lacked a creative edge and never looked like rescuing a point once the Foxes had taken the lead.
Pre-match, Smith revealed he was unsure how long Grealish would be out for after the playmaker missed the Foxes defeat due to a leg injury suffered in training:
The manager said: “[Jack] had some discomfort in training at the end of the week and we decided he wasn’t right to play.
“We don’t believe it’s long term but have no idea how long he will be out. We are assessing him as it goes and as an internal optimist I hope he is back for Leeds.”
Villa will be hoping the England international will be back for their trip to Elland Road on Saturday, as they aim to prevent Marcelo Bielsa’s Whites from completing their first league double over the Villans in 45-years.