Ward Saves The Day

Leicester City 0 Southampton 0 (Full Time)  

Leicester City 6 Southampton 5 on penalties

Carabao Cup – 27 November 2018

Report by Tish Krokosz

After the tragic events of the helicopter crash on 27 October, this match had been rightly postponed to tonight. The loss of five lives including that of our chairman had to be properly respected and our visitors, Southampton, were quick to appreciate the feelings of the home side and acknowledge the respect that was due, and so, were prepared to accept a revised date. A lot has been written and said in the meantime and it would be interesting to see how the management, the team and the crowd would respond to this match. Claude Puel had indicated that he wanted to honour the former chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha by going all out to win a cup for him.

City’s team selection was dictated somewhat by injuries to Maguire, Ghezzal, Amartey and James and Maddison’s suspension, yet still included more fringe players than the crowd was expecting. The fans would echo Puel’s desire for some silverware at the end of this season and this cup provides an excellent opportunity to claim that prize. Southampton, likewise, did not field their strongest eleven at the start, but Hughes has the predicament of trying to break a long run of games without a win and his choice reflected desperation as well as caution.

The early impetus was all from City but without any success in front of goal. At least we did not give away a soft goal to the opposition in the early stages of the game. The visitors were playing a very high line as were City and this meant all twenty outfield players were often squeezed into a narrow thirty yard band in the middle of the pitch. Each side had shots on goal in the first half but none was dangerous and few were on target. The closest opportunity for City was at the very end of the half when Vardy, who was captain for the night, made a strong run on the left of the penalty area and saw his powerful cross bounce off a Southampton defender and trickle wide of the far post. Otherwise, it was a disappointing half without much entertainment and fans were already suggesting it would end goalless.

Where was the “blood and guts” approach to a cup match? Where was, to use Puel’s favourite words, the intensity and quality that would be needed to progress further in the competition? If anything, it was the away side that was going to show more of these approaches in the second half. Puel recognised that City were not showing enough passion or skill in going forward and brought on Okazaki and Mendy for Iheanacho and Silva after sixty minutes. Ndidi and Mendy have formed a close partnership in midfield and managed to plug some of the gaps that had been showing.

However, the south coast side were the only ones to have any clear-cut chances and golden opportunities to score throughout the second forty-five minutes. Ward had to make several good saves to keep the score at nil-nil. The woodwork saved City twice and Hughes must have been apoplectic when Obafemi missed a sitter in front of goal after Redmond’s shot had come to him off the bar.

The Southampton fans did raise a cheer when Davis put the ball in the net after 82 minutes, but there was an even louder cheer from City fans when VAR decided after a lengthy wait that the “goal” would be disallowed as a result of handball in the build up.

VAR was used again two minutes later to determine that Evans was not fouled in the Southampton penalty area, thereby denying City a chance to claim the spoils towards the end of the match. It was decided that there would be six minutes of extra time at the end of the ninety to bring some more drama. Just before the board was shown, Southampton brought on Gabbiadini with the expectation that he would be needed for penalties. However, with barely a minute of extra-time remaining he had the opportunity to seal it for the visitors with a free-kick from just outside the penalty area. His left-footed shot curled over the City wall and was heading for the top right corner until Ward leapt to his left and palmed it against the bar and to safety. Ward was City’s hero at the end of ninety minutes and this title was to be reinforced during the ensuing penalty shoot-out.

Each of the first five players for each team converted their penalties confidently with Fuchs, Albrighton, Söyüncü, Gray and Vardy scoring for City. This meant sudden death for each of the next attempts. Gabbiadini took his too casually and telegraphed the direction to Ward who dived to his right and stopped it. Who was going to take the decisive spot kick for City? It turned out to be Mendy’s responsibility. He duly thumped it passed Gunn and City were through to the next round.

Upon reflection, it was a strange game. The ninety minutes of normal play was not enthralling and it does not say much if the loudest cheers are as a result of a VAR decision to cancel a goal. The opponents in the next round are an outfit from Manchester who seem to be scoring at will and are probably a stronger unit than when we played them at the same stage last year. City’s performance against Southampton would have to be improved by miles for us to stand a chance of even reaching the opportunity of penalties. But considering the form that Ward is showing this year in this competition, if he plays in the next round, who knows?

Leicester City: Ward, Simpson, Söyüncü, Evans, Fuchs, Diabaté (Albrighton 78), Silva (Mendy 61), Ndidi, Gray, Iheanacho (Okazaki 61), Vardy. Subs not used: Jakupovic, Morgan, Ricardo Pereira, Leshabela.

Southampton: Gunn, Yoshida, Vestergaard, Stephens, Valery, Højbjerg, Lemina, Armstrong (Davis 73), Targett (Soares 61), Redmond, Obafemi (Gabbiadini 89). Subs not used: McCarthy, Hoedt, Austin, Ward-Prowse.

Referee: R. East                                Attendance: 22,150

The views expressed in this report are the opinions of the Trust member nominated to file the report only and do not represent the views of the Foxes Trust organisation