Harvey Barnes takes advantage as Aston Villa’s familiar problem exploited again

Gareth Southgate must have felt like cursing under his face mask as first Jack Grealish was absent and then James Maddison limped off.

But it wasn't a wasted trip for the England manager as Harvey Barnes starred for the Foxes who climbed to second.

First Barnes unselfishly found Maddison to curl in from the edge of the box in the 19th minute for the visitors.

Then attacking ace Barnes, 23, who made his senior international debut in October, got on the scoresheet himself with his 13th of the season in all competitions.

His pace and direct running were too hot to handle for Villa.

“I’ve added goals to my game and I’m really happy with that," Barnes said post-game. "We’re playing really attacking football.”

Leicester held on for a deserved win despite Bertrand Traore pulling a goal back after the break.

Villa have now retrieved just one point from games in which they have conceded first – the lowest in the top-flight.

Dean Smith's side were noticeably less dangerous without crocked skipper and talisman Grealish, who missed his first league game in 15 months with a leg injury.

He is doubtful for England's World Cup qualifiers against San Marino, Albania and Poland at the end of next month.

Maddison joined Grealish on the injury list when he hobbled off in the second half clutching his hip.

Yet with Barnes on this form ,and Jamie Vardy always a threat upfront, Leicester are once again on a roll in the race for a Champions League spot.

They also have a good chance of reaching the Europa League last 16 when Slavia Prague visit on Thursday after a goalless first leg.

So 2021 is shaping up to be a vintage year for boss Brendan Rodgers who shrewdly used his subs at Villa Park to shut down the game after a blistering start.

Leicester, who arrived unbeaten away in seven games in the top-flight, signalled their intent as Ricardo Pereira shot straight at Emiliano Martinez in the first minute.

Even left-back Luke Thomas had a shot deflected wide as the visitors pushed up.

Villa took until the 17th minute to threaten when Ollie Watkins and Anwar El Ghazi combined to tee up Traore but Youri Tielemans and Thomas crowded him out.

Leicester remained the more dangerous side and deservedly broke the deadlock.

Tielemans played the ball forward and Barnes cleverly laid it off to Maddison to curl in a low right-foot shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the box.

Keeper Martinez got a hand to it but couldn't keep out Maddison's 11th of the season in all competitions and his fifth in nine League games

Villa struggled desperately without their skipper and talisman Grealish.

The visitors doubled their lead in the 23rd minute from Barnes' clinical left-foot finish as right-back Ahmed El Mohamady switched off. Barnes lashed in after Martinez failed to hold Vardy's shot after more good work by the influential Tielemans.

Despite Leicester's dominance, Villa improved after the restart and almost immediately pulled a goal back.

Matt Targett did well down the left and his cross found Traore unmarked to thump in six yards out in the 48th minute.

It sparked a heated scuffle in the box as Foxes keeper Kasper Schmeichel claimed he was impeded.

But Villa were unable to find another spark without Grealish as they couldn't build on their foothold in the game despite a spirited finale.

And it was Leicester who went closest to notching again as 12-goal top scorer Vardy flashed a left-foot effort wide.

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