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The BBC's Simon Brotherton
"Leicester were unadventurous and Villa uninspired"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 25 January, 2000, 21:42 GMT
Stalemate at Villa Park

Emergency Leicester forward Matt Elliott and Steve Watson


Aston Villa 0-0 Leicester

The Midlands rivals will start next week's deciding match all square after a disappointing first leg of the Worthington Cup semi-final.

Villa enjoyed marginally more of the chances and will take heart by the fact that bogey side Leicester did not take a crucial away goal from Villa Park.



It's not a disaster - we kept a clean sheet and a 1-1 will take us through.....we're hoping that Leicester will come out and cross the halfway line in the second leg
John Gregory
But the fighting Foxes will be the happier as they head for Filbert Street with a great chance of making their third Wembley final in four years.

With both sides employing the same 5-3-2 formation neither could exert control on the match.

The two sides played in a cagey fashion in the hunt for the European place which awaits the winners of this competition.

Tactically at least, spectators could have been forgiven for thinking that this was already a Uefa Cup tie, such was the two sides' unwillingness to take any risks.


Heskey was a threat to Ugo Ehiogu and team-mates
But neither showed the guile that is surely necessary to progress on the continental stage, in particular a home side missing the cup-tied Benito Carbone.

Villa started with Paul Merson up front, and he was the only player who looked likely to unlock either defence.

In one of seven changes Leicester welcomed back Muzzy Izzet from injury, but Matt Elliot was back in the attack due to a lack of fit strikers.



We sat back, but Villa forced us back as befits the home side.......and we've got a great chance of putting it right next week
Martin O'Neill
From the start the home side's passing was neater while Leicester tried the direct route to the powerful Heskey.

The most notable early incident was a booking on 24 minutes for Leicester's England striker.

Heskey used his elbow in a challenge on Villa's composed young centre back Gareth Barry, and referee Terry Heilbron had no hesitation in producing the yellow card.

On the half-hour a goalkeeper was finally called into action, with David James punching away a free kick and then rushing smartly off his line to deny the onrushing Heskey.


John Gregory spent time in the stand and on the touchline
The early stages of the second half produced more of the same unappetising fare, although Elliot fired wide after Andy Impey's cross on 56 minutes.

At the same time a double substitution saw Mark Delaney and inexperienced striker Richard Walker sent on for Villa's Watson and Stone.

And after an hour one of the teams finally produced a shot on target, with Joachim firing into Flowers' arms from a tight angle.

Two minutes later the best chance of the match saw the in-form Ian Taylor head past Flowers at the near post.

But a bad bounce took the ball agonisingly wide and just out of Walker's reach.


Boateng in control as Izzet looks on
Villa pressed in search of a goal, and won a series of corners and free kicks, which Leicester defended resolutely and superbly.

Flowers only had to rescue them once - when Merson's 70th minute free kick was nodded across to Gareth Southgate.

The England defender's snap volley was turned away with a superb stop from Flowers.

And the last chance fell to the visitors, when Greek substitute Theo Zagorakis almost caught James off his line.

Teams:

Aston Villa: James, Ehiogu, Southgate, Barry, Watson, Taylor, Boateng, Stone, Wright, Joachim, Merson. Subs: Thompson, Walker, Delaney, Calderwood, Cutler.

Leicester: Flowers, Taggart, Gilchrist, Guppy, Savage, Izzet, Impey, Sinclair, Oakes, Heskey, Elliott. Subs: Walsh, Campbell, Fenton, Zagorakis, Arphexad.

Referee: T Heilbron (Newton Aycliffe)

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See also:
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Links to other Football stories are at the foot of the page.