LONDON • Leicester City's Riyad Mahrez could be relinquishing his penalty-taking duties, after missing a potential game-winning spot kick for the Foxes on Saturday.
Leicester went provisionally back to the top of Premier League on Saturday with a 1-1 draw at Aston Villa. But there was the unmistakable sense of an opportunity blown, with Arsenal possibly regaining first place with just a draw at Stoke City yesterday.
Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri said he felt "it was a pity" that his side did not ram home their first-half control at Villa Park, when leading 1-0 through a Shinji Okazaki goal and then awarded a penalty for Aly Cissokho's hand-ball.
Mahrez, one of the stars of their eye-opening season, struck a tame spot kick straight down the middle that goalkeeper Mark Bunn saved with his feet. It was Mahrez's second consecutive missed spot kick of his otherwise spotless campaign and bottom club Villa took heart.
The hosts produced a much-improved second-half performance, sealed by substitute Rudy Gestede's 76th-minute equaliser from a thumping shot which deflected off Wes Morgan's hand.
"We lost two points," Ranieri said. "We started very well. We scored a goal but after we missed the penalty, the Aston Villa players took a new energy. We must score the second goal. If we do, we close the match."
Mahrez, who was substituted, was said by Ranieri to be "very sad at the end of the match".
The Algerian also failed to score from 12 yards against Bournemouth earlier this month.
"Now is not important if I change the penalty man," said Ranieri, with England striker Jamie Vardy the likeliest alternative. "I'll speak with him and then I'll choose.
"From the bench, it was difficult to see if it was hand-ball but if it's a penalty, it's a red card."
The pacy Foxes have won more penalties (nine) than any other side in the Premier League. Mahrez converted four of six attempts, while Vardy has netted all three he has taken this season.
Bunn saved Mahrez's penalty in just his second league appearance in almost three years. And Villa manager Remi Garde conceded that his side were indebted to their goalkeeper.
Despite the draw, however, Villa remain stranded by six points at the foot of the table.
"If you look at the previous week, Mark did well," said the Frenchman, who left Brad Guzan on the bench for Villa's last three games, starting with their FA Cup draw against Wycombe.
" I feel Mark gives a little bit more confidence to the team and what he did was good as well.
"If he had not saved the penalty, probably 2-0 down would have been too difficult. He kept us in the game."