LONDON: After a worrying dip in form, Leicester City have regained their fluency, manager Brendan Rodgers said on Monday after Jamie Vardy and Harvey Barnes each scored twice in a 4-0 thrashing of Midlands rivals Aston Villa in the Premier League.
Third-placed Leicester had looked nailed-on for a top-four finish but a four-game run without a win had allowed Chelsea and Manchester United to start breathing down their necks. Victory re-established a healthy buffer though.
They are eight points above in-form United who are fifth and five ahead of fourth-placed Chelsea with nine games remaining.
“The resilience and effort was brilliant and in the second half we got our fluency back and some of our goals were outstanding. We played some really good football at times,” Rodgers, whose side had not scored for three games, said.
“The intensity is important to how we play and the pressure on the ball was much better. That desire is so critical for us. A real collective confidence has allowed us to be where we are and our ambition is to stay there.
“If we play like that, with that confidence, we have every chance.”
Vardy had not scored since Dec. 21 — a nine-game drought — but after coming off the bench in the 59th minute he scored a penalty with his first touch and then grabbed a second goal with a typically sharp finish. His brace put him back out alone as the Premier League’s top scorer this season with 19 goals.
“Jamie has been outstanding in his career at Leicester and he’s been phenomenal,” Rodgers said. “His running and movement were back to what we are used to from him. “He got his reward for his hard work.”
While Leicester are closing in on a return to the Champions League, following their one campaign in the competition in 2016-17 following their Premier League title-winning season, Villa are heading for a quick return to the Championship.
They are 19th, two points below the safety line, and while they have a game in hand they have a tough fixture list. Villa host Chelsea on Saturday and also must still face Wolverhampton Wanderers, Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and in-form Sheffield United.
Manager Dean Smith rued his side’s defensive mistakes which gifted Leicester two goals — the first being a crazy rush-of-blood by goalkeeper Pepe Reina who ran out of his goal to try to intercept the ball which allowed Barnes to score. “We made a mistake for the first goal. Pepe came out for a ball he wasn’t going to get and made Barnes’ goal easy,” he said. “One of my biggest regrets was how we gave the ball away so cheaply against a team who want the football. “We made a big error. Teams capitalise on our errors. We’ve probably made more individual errors than anyone his season