Claude Puel will be bitterly disappointed that his Leicester side were unable to at least retain a point on Saturday afternoon against the 10 men of Southampton at the King Power.
Southampton were the first team to open the scoring through young Englishman James Ward-Prowse in the 11th minute. He dispatched a penalty hard to Kasper Schmeichel’s right, and even though the Dane managed to get a hand to it, he was unable to keep the ball from rustling in the back of the net.
Southampton then maintained pressure throughout the first half and were seemingly going into half time confident, with a one-nil lead. The game then became very interesting. With three minutes to go until half time, the Saints had a man sent off, young Yan Valery, following his second yellow card of the game.
Initially, Leicester fans would have thought that this would be their saving grace, quite the opposite however, as Shane Long latched onto the end of a long ball and doubled Southampton’s lead with only seconds to go before the half-time whistle, giving Leicester everything to do in the second half.
Leicester were able to scrape a goal back through Wilfred Ndidi in the 58th minute, which made the game very tense for any Saints fans watching. However Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men were able to keep the Foxes at bay and leave the King Power stadium with all three points. A huge win for the Saints considering prior to this match the Foxes were 11 places higher than them in the Premier League.
Shane Long shines for Southampton
Shane Long is a player who is very difficult to hate, he works hard, puts 100% effort in and gives his absolute all for the team, any time he is on the pitch. The only argument against the Irish international is his lack of an end product. Up until this match, he had scored only two goals in his previous 71 Premier League appearances.
In his defence, a fair few of these were off the bench, however for a striker that simply is not good enough. On the contrary, however, he had a sensational game against Leicester, winning the penalty and scoring a goal himself. Not only was he the main contributor for both goals, but he was causing Leicester all sorts of problems with his pace and tenacious closing down.
His last four goals have been scored under different managers which is an amusing stat to the neutral but to a fan, not so great. The Saints have been struggling to find a striker they can rely on, and with Ings injured and Austin suspended this gave long the perfect opportunity to secure a place in the starting XI, and he fits Hasenhuttl’s outlook perfectly, with a high press and relentless effort. Who knows, maybe he’ll get his second wind under Hasenhuttl. An exciting time for the Irishman.
Hasenhuttl can be praised for the way he handled the game on Saturday afternoon, especially following the sending off. The first half consisted of a Southampton high press tactic, giving Leicester absolutely no time on the ball, with the combination of the front three and the two wing-backs also getting involved meaning Leicester looked very shaky and nervous at the back.
However, the second half saw a completely different Southampton side with all nine outfield players behind the ball in a narrow, highly organised fashion. Something that Saints fans haven’t seen in a while.
Even though Leicester managed to get a goal back, the way Hasenhuttl set up the defence it almost looked impossible for Leicester to break through the back line, resulting in a multitude of long-range efforts on McCarthy’s goal, none of which ended up troubling the Englishman too much. Prior to this game, Southampton had gone ahead in nine separate games.
These games resulted in three wins, three draws, and three losses, which is not ideal for fans when your team has just taken the lead. However, there was a confidence about this Saints side that hasn’t been seen with these individual groups of players, which has to be down to the manager. Hasenhuttl has certainly made a name for himself on the South Coast already.
In the second half, you would have been very lucky to see the ball in Leicester’s half as it was all or nothing against the ten-man Southampton side. The Foxes broke through in the 58th minute through some excellent work down the right-hand side through Ricardo.
Ricardo squared the ball and Ndidi nudged the ball in off his knee and brought the deficit down to one. The following half an hour must have been the most frustrating thing for someone who has anything to do with Leicester City Football Club, as nothing was happening and nothing was on. This was partly down to Southampton’s defensive solidarity, but it also just looked like they had run out of ideas.
Southampton were playing very narrow which forced Leicester out onto the wings, looking to get crosses into the area, but the ball just kept falling to Jannik Vestergaard, who had an absolutely brilliant game. Leicester just had no time in the final third, partly down to Oriol Romeu’s non-stop running and partly due to a lack of final product; the confidence just wasn’t there for Leicester.
Nampalys Mendy had, what they call in the industry, an absolute stinker on Saturday afternoon. Arguably being at fault for both of Southampton’s goals. He gave away the penalty in the first ten minutes of the game, which was as blatant as you like.
The ball was lofted to Long who shielded the ball in the box and Mendy came powering through with his arm around Long’s neck and brought the Southampton man down, no arguments from anyone on the pitch with the referee’s decision. The second came with another lofted ball through to Long. The ball ran slightly ahead of Long which gave Mendy full advantage and the opportunity to clear the ball, however he tried to play the ball back to Schmeichel with a fine touch, which was horribly misjudged, allowing Long to pick up the ball and score.
Mendy was not the only Leicester player not firing on all cylinders and Ben Chilwell and Jamie Vardy also had noticeably bad games. In Vardy’s defence, the way Puel plays hinders him in the sense that he does not get involved in much of the action, he’s only there for the final product, but he couldn’t even find the final product today.
Relegation battle intensifies
11 points now separate 14th and 20th place in the Premier League. The tightest it has been in a long time. The win for Saints lifted them into 16th position, above Cardiff and Newcastle following their results yesterday.
Hasenhuttl will be looking to bring this run through into their next fixture, even with his weakened squad. Leicester will now be looking to redeem themselves and push for that Europa League spot as they fall into 8th place behind Watford by only a single point.