He restored our identity - Rodgers pays tribute to game-changer Choudhury

By Sports Desk January 08, 2020

Brendan Rodgers paid tribute to Hamza Choudhury's second-half display in Leicester City's EFL Cup semi-final first-leg draw with Aston Villa, suggesting the midfielder gave the Foxes back their "identity".

​Leicester had been well on top in the first half at the King Power Stadium, but they trailed despite their dominance following Frederic Guilbert's 28th-minute opener.

It looked as though Villa were going to hang on, as Leicester struggled to create chances after the break and visiting goalkeeper Orjan Nyland enjoyed an impressive performance.

Kelechi Iheanacho eventually scored the equaliser 16 minutes from time, but it was Choudhury – who robbed Douglas Luiz in the build-up to the leveller – earning Rodgers' praise.

The midfielder was introduced at half-time to add much-needed steel after Wilfred Ndidi had been ruled out through injury on Tuesday, and Rodgers accepted he should have started the Leicester academy product.

"We dominated the game but we were passive in the first half, played too slow. It was all a bit slow," Rodgers told Sky Sports. "We didn't press the game enough.

"The goal we conceded, we have to be stronger, but we stayed calm and sped up the game, made more runs off the ball. Second half we were very good, they made some great blocks to stop us winning the game. Credit to them, they made it very difficult.

"Hamza Choudhury made a huge difference, it's my fault that I didn't start him. We could see that we needed him and he gave us our identity back.

"Wilfred Ndidi is so good for us, he's colossal, and we were too slow and not aggressive without him or Hamza."

Rodgers' counterpart Dean Smith feels the second-leg is tantalisingly poised, though he was frustrated by Villa's performance despite having the lead for a large chunk of the match.

"It should be a good second leg, all square and a boisterous crowd, a full house," he added. "But it wasn't the performance I wanted. Leicester were the better team, but we defended well at times.

"We have to be honest, they created chances as well. We were loose on the ball and we've got to do better. I'm certainly content with a draw, just not the performance.

"We gave away a farcical goal. Ezri Konsa has got brain dazzled. It's a disappointing goal, but it sums up some of our performance on the night."

The two sides will meet again for the second leg at Villa Park on January 28.

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