Leicester City 1- Southampton 2
Report by Chris Griffin
Despite playing against ten men for the second half Leicester could not unlock a battling and well-drilled defence, apart from Ndidi’s short range effort on the hour mark. By then Leicester had conceded two first half goals.
The first, a penalty, was confidently put away by Ward-Prowse after Mendy’s unnecessary and clumsy challenge on Long after ten minutes. The second came in first half overtime when Southampton countered quickly from deep. Pereira and Mendy both failed to clear and Long cut in to side foot past Schmeichel from a tight angle: the keeper’s block possibly diverting the ball into the net.
Some booing came from sections of the crowd at the final whistle and the media latched onto speculation about the future of manager Puel. When asked if he felt under pressure he replied “It’s not my concern.” On the result he commented that it was a big disappointment. “It’s difficult to accept the second goal…we had a lot of chances and opportunities. It was important to try to manage the game with intensity in our passes. It was difficult to be clinical and maybe we needed a bit more movement in the box.”
As a judgement it is difficult to disagree – except to add that as well as passing lacking intensity it also lacked accuracy. The first half saw pass after pass go astray either through under or over hitting. In the second, despite reaching the by-line time after time the ball played across the goal did not pick out a City player. Ndidi’s goal was the exception following an accurate cross from Pereira.
Even before the penalty Southampton had three opportunities. A good run by Armstrong saw his firm low shot pass wide of the post. He then had an effort blocked well by Mendy. From the resulting corner Long headed just wide. City were trying to push forward but looked vulnerable to the counter attack. One of these saw Maddison receive a yellow card for pulling back Redmond on the halfway line.
City’s play lacked cohesion. There were flashes of promise such as a surging run from Choudhury but his pass to Albrighton was overhit. On the 30th minute came City’s best chance when Maguire sent a header from a Chilwell cross flashing past the post.
Leicester won another free kick on the left touch line when Valery clattered Chilwell. Both received yellow cards: Valery for the challenge and Chilwell for his reaction. From the free kick came another near miss with Morgan’s sliding effort blocked on the line. Then Maddison crossed and again Maguire won the header but McCarthy saved. Close to half time Valery was given a second yellow for pulling back Albrighton as he latched onto a through ball outside the area.
Barnes, on return from his loan spell at West Bromwich Albion and Gray replaced Mendy and Albrighton for the start of the second half. There followed 45 minutes of total City domination of possession with Maguire spending most of the half as a supporting midfielder. It was Maguire’s long-range shot that saw McCarthy get down smartly and punched away the ball following a late deflection. McCarthy performed a similar save from a fierce Maddison effort on the 52nd minute. Maddison then had another effort blocked.
Ndidi’s goal gave some hope. Gray and Maddison interchanged some smart passes at pace before releasing Pereira whose pass picked out the unmarked Ndidi. Minutes later a really good cross from Pereira had just too much dip and swerve on it, beating both defenders and attackers as it flew close to the far corner of the net. Then Maddison whipped in an excellent cross but Vardy could not put enough purchase on his header.
Leicester had plenty of space down both flanks to attack with Chilwell and Pereira frequently in advanced positions. But the final ball too often found a defender. It was hard to understand why City persisted with high balls into the box which were easily dealt with by the imposing and tall Southampton defenders. City resorted to longer range efforts, including one from Ghezzal who had replaced Choudhury, but these were blocked and cleared. Barnes had a chance coming in from the left but – under challenge – could not get enough power and direction on his shot.
With seconds remaining City won a corner which saw Schmeichel come up into the opposing penalty area. From the corner Ndidi’s header flew just wide of the post: close, but not close enough.
Like last season City’s form at home continues to frustrate fans. At the start of play Southampton were 11 places below City and 15 points adrift. Whenever a team comes and parks the bus – although to be fair to Southampton most of their bus-parking came after they went down to ten men – City struggle.
Fans comment that Vardy lacks support from another striker but the club gives no sign of taking action on this – and JV must also be looking back wistfully to the days when he had Drinkwater behind him with the guile and creativity to provide defence splitting passes to run onto at pace. It is hard to fault the effort and energy of the players, but finding a way through the dense traffic of massed defences in home games has to be a priority
Wolves next week: no matter how good our away form – that will not be easy.
Leicester City: Schmeichel; Pereira; Morgan; Maguire; Chilwell; Choudhury (Ghezzal 76’); Mendy (Barnes 45’); Ndidi; Albrighton (Gray 45’); Vardy; Maddison. Subs not used: Simpson; Soyuncu; Iheanacho; Ward.
Southampton: McCarthy; Bednarek; Stephens; Vesetrgaard; Valery; Romeu; Ward-Prowse; Targett; Redmond (Gallagher 93’); Armstrong (Soares 57’); Long (Slattery 76’). Subs not used: Elyounoussi; Gunn; Sims; Ramsay.
Referee: Michael Oliver. Attendance: 31,491
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