Jamie Vardy’s nine-game goal drought came to an end as he came off the bench to score twice in Leicester City’s convincing win over Aston Villa.
The Foxes led through Harvey Barnes’ goal after the winger took advantage of visiting keeper Pepe Reina’s baffling decision to run out of his box.
Vardy’s first touch was to score a penalty after Tyrone Mings’ handball, before he smashed in at the near post.
Barnes scored his second from a Marc Albrighton cross.
It was third-placed Leicester’s first win in five Premier League games, while Dean Smith’s side remain in the relegation zone after a fifth consecutive defeat in all competitions.
Leicester had missed Vardy for a couple of weeks with a calf injury, but really they had been missing his goals since 21 December when he last scored against Manchester City.
Since then he had gone nine games in league and cup without scoring.
Foxes manager Brendan Rodgers said it was no coincidence their recent blip – two points from four games – came during midfielder Wilfried Ndidi’s absence. Ndidi was back, and so too is Vardy.
Villa were already ahead when the 33-year-old Englishman replaced Kelechi Iheanacho after 59 minutes. The first thing he did was slot a spot-kick down the centre after Mings had been penalised for handball. The ball appeared to hit centre-back Mings’ shoulder – but the decision stood after a check by the video assistant referee.
Vardy only had seven touches of the ball – but two of them were goals. His second arrived after his attempted cross had come back to him, allowing him to rifle past Reina at his near post.
That was a particularly impressive goal, starting with defender Jonny Evans winning the ball outside his own box before he played it forward to Barnes, who found Vardy.
Leicester’s fourth gave them a scoreline their performance deserved – Barnes, who merited his second goal for an industrious performance, blasting home from Albrighton’s cross.
The result boosts Leicester’s Champions League chances, with the 2016 title-winners sitting eight points above fifth-placed Manchester United with nine matches remaining.
Villa’s cup keeper Orjan Nyland played well in their Carabao Cup final defeat by Manchester City last Sunday and there was some talk that he could keep his place instead of Reina being recalled. Manager Smith may wish he had done just that.
Leicester were already on top without finding the breakthrough when Reina decided to run about 20 yards outside his penalty area in an attempt to cut out Albrighton’s long ball to Barnes. Why he did so was a mystery, with several defenders running back into position.
Barnes took advantage by nipping the ball past the Spaniard – the oldest player to make an error leading to a goal in the Premier League this season – before scoring past two defenders on the line from 20 yards.
Villa had a glorious chance to move out of the relegation zone with none of the five teams above them winning this weekend. They had a bright start at the King Power Stadium with Conor Hourihane and Mbwana Samatta going close to getting on the end of set-pieces.
But that was their best spell of the game and Frederic Guilbert’s 78th-minute effort, which was easily held by Kasper Schmeichel, was their only shot on target.
Villa have lost all five games since beating Leicester in the EFL Cup semi-finals. They will need to improve drastically if they are to stay in the Premier League, especially as their next four games are against sides currently in the top six – Chelsea, Wolves, Liverpool and Manchester City.
More to follow.