All Brendan Rodgers did was make just two changes to the starting XI which took down Birmingham City in the Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round on Wednesday. Full-back James Justin replaced the injured Ben Chilwell while Harvey Barnes came in for winger Demarai Gray. The rest of the spellbinding magic and wizardry was woven by his magnificent team as Leicester City roared back to their scintillating best in a compelling 4-0 victory over Aston Villa at King Power Stadium on Monday.
The Foxes were in fine form and certainly in a mood not to be messed with as they commandeered the game with a superb display to register a convincing win via the dual braces from Academy graduate Harvey Barnes and the returning Jamie Vardy to help Leicester City restore their five-point lead over fourth-placed rivals Chelsea.
Leicester’s dominance was eminent throughout the match, coupled with dazzle and creativity that Rodgers was particularly pleased with.
“It was a comprehensive win,” Rodgers told LCFC TV. “The players worked so hard in the game and then I thought once we got the first goal, you saw the confidence in the team.”
“Then, the tempo and speed of the game, it was very, very good. We worked ever so hard in the game, we didn’t give much away from a defensive perspective and we looked very, very creative and looked like we could score a number of goals. So yes, very pleased.”
The Leicester boss was quick to single out James for his composure on the pitch during his home Premier League debut besides also bringing attention to Barnes and the significance of his match exploits.
“I thought JJ was amazing,” said Rodgers. “His first home Premier League start was absolutely brilliant. His composure, his quality – he’s a great defender. I was pleasantly surprised how he lasted the game. He was so, so good in just his resilience and persistence, so I’m delighted for him.”
“Harvey scored two outstanding goals. His run, power and speed is always a threat, but the first goal, he showed great speed to get away and then his touch and finish is very good. Then, the second one was what we’ve been encouraging him to do. The ball is on the far side, get in the box, near middle to far, to just try and read the space.”
“He got in, and he had a similar chance to put that away at Aston Villa in the game when he came on there, and he skied it over the bar. You can see he’s learning because this time he kept it low and it was a great finish.”
The breakthrough for City came five minutes before the break as Albrighton relayed an exquisite pass through to Barnes which momentarily triggered Reina to dash out of his safe zone, despite having the defensive cover in front. Barnes coolly and ever so calmly glided the ball just beyond the Spanish keeper’s frantic reach to give Leicester the well deserved advantage.
After the interval the visitors rallied briefly but to no avail. A subsequent penalty conversion by Jamie Vardy fired low and hard past Reina found the net to give Leicester a 2-goal lead. Then with only 11 minutes left Barnes found the opening he needed to surge forward and find Vardy who lost no time to thunder home a rapid-fire finish to further extend Leicester’s lead. In the 85th minute even the torrential downpour could not prevent Barnes from striking again as he brilliantly maneuvred Albrighton’s cross into the bottom corner to cap off a sensational performance.
Leicester’s commanding win, their sixteenth in the campaign, puts them in third place on 53 points, five above Chelsea in fourth, with the gap between them and fifth-placed Manchester United now extended to eight with 9 games remaining.
The Foxes travel next to Hertfordshire on Saturday to take on Watford at Vicarage Road in the Premier League (12:30pm kick-off).