Tim Sherwood saw his new Aston Villa side edge into the FA Cup quarter-finals with a 2-1 home win over Leicester.
Scorers: Aston Villa - Bacuna (68), Sinclair (89); Leicester City - Kramaric (90)
Sherwood had a watching brief, but after a goalless opening 45 minutes, his half-time team-talk seemed to galvanise Villa and goals by Leandro Bacuna and Scott Sinclair settled a scrappy game. Andrej Kramaric netted an injury-time consolation for the Foxes, but they could not force a replay.
Villa goalkeeper Shay Given is hopeful his man-of-the-match performance has proved to Sherwood that he still has plenty to offer.
Given, who is 39 in April, played alongside Sherwood at Blackburn and put in a sterling performance, with one save in particular to deny Matty James laying the platform for the victory. “When the new manager comes in it’s a clean slate for everyone. I have plenty to offer and I hope that Tim sees that today,” said Given.
Sherwood gave the half-time team talk and Given was glowing about the words spoken by the new boss. “He was very positive,” he said. “He told us to go express yourself, keep shooting and use Christian’s strength.”
Villa sacked Paul Lambert after a poor run of form which has sent them into the bottom three in the Barclays Premier League, and Given hopes the win will be the catalyst to kick-start their season. “We have to take confidence. We scored two goals, we have struggled to score goals. We will take belief from that as well and use this momentum to take into our league games.”
First-team coach Scott Marshall took charge of Villa.
Marcin Wasilewski hit the post for Leicester while Christian Benteke and Andi Weimann both had goals ruled out for offside for the hosts. But Villa reached the quarter-finals for the first time since 2010 despite their late scare.
Foxes boss Nigel Pearson was also in the stands and would have been worried by the Foxes’ slow start. Villa opened well and Weimann blazed over from 16 yards but their attacking threat waned, showing Sherwood the immediate problem he needs to fix.
While there was plenty of endeavour, the hosts lacked quality with Benteke isolated and unable to seriously trouble the Foxes defence.
It gave Leicester encouragement and Wasilewski glanced James’ corner across goal and onto the face of the far post after 12 minutes.
Slowly, the Foxes began to assert themselves and Kramaric went down under pressure from Vlaar before Wes Morgan headed over.
Leicester were on top and Villa needed Given to roll back the years after 31 minutes to deny James.
Jeff Schlupp’s pass was dummied by Esteban Cambiasso for James to arrow a shot towards the top corner, only for Given to produce a wonderful fingertip save. Villa did not need another warning and thought they were ahead a minute before the break when Benteke swept into the corner, but his strike was ruled out for offside.
Seemingly buoyed by Sherwood’s half-time words, the hosts began the second half well and Fabian Delph’s mis-hit header flew over before Mark Schwarzer saved at Benteke’s feet.
The Foxes looked ragged and Benteke headed wide before Villa finally made their dominance count after 68 minutes.
Vlaar slipped a cute ball through to Bacuna and the midfielder cut inside to unleash a curling effort into the bottom corner from 18 yards.
Two minutes later, Weimann had the ball in the net, only to be pulled up for offside, and Benteke fired over after outpacing Matthew Upson.
A dour game had come to life and Leicester almost hit back when Kramaric failed to force the ball in after Given had spilled a cross. Vlaar then denied Riyad Mahrez with a last-ditch tackle and Kramaric headed over.
But Villa made it 2-0 in the 89th minute when substitute Sinclair wriggled free. His weak shot was straight at Schwarzer but the goalkeeper spilled it into his own net.
Leicester immediately hit back in stoppage time when Kramaric headed in Schlupp’s cross, but Villa held on.