Lacklustre City lose their way

Leicester City 1 – Southampton 2

Report by Chris Griffin

Three Premier League home games since mid December have yielded one point. This was a sub-standard performance with Leicester not establishing their usual dominance of possession or control of the tempo of play. Ndidi’s absence left a serious gap. His patrolling of the central third from touchline to touchline has been a crucial part of City’s success this season. Without him City were too often second best in winning the second ball, giving Southampton’s attacking trio of Ings, Long and Redmond many chances to threaten.

Choudhury came in for Ndidi and Praet and Barnes also started. After a scrappy start (not surprising given the blustery, wet conditions) Vardy made a good run but his cross did not reach the unmarked Praet. Then Barnes cut back a cross but Southampton cleared.

Southampton showed serious intent and Ings forced Schmeichel to make an outstanding double save after Leicester had carelessly surrendered possession – which was to happen all too often.

Nevertheless City took the lead in the 14th minute. The defence cleared their lines and Perez took possession but was fouled near the halfway line. He showed quick-witted awareness by taking the free kick quickly to send Vardy accelerating into space in the inside left channel. Vardy crossed to the far post where Praet, after a lung-breaking run, drove the ball past McCarthy.

If Southampton were cowed by this they did not show it. Schmeichel made a smart save from Armstrong. In the 19th minute Southampton pounced on the ball just outside the City penalty area and worked it to the unmarked Armstrong on the right hand of the box. He cut inside and his left foot shot took a big deflection off Maddison so Schmeichel had no chance to save.

Southampton kept up their attacking pressure. Ings headed wide from a Redmond cross then Evans headed clear a dangerous Ward-Prowse free kick. A rare City attack saw Southampton play too casually in defence and the ball fell to the unmarked Vardy. He promptly smacked it in the net but the linesman’s flag was up for offside. 

Back came Southampton, winning a free kick from a Söyüncü foul. Ward-Prowse put in a searching kick and Leicester were relieved to see Choudhury head away for a corner. Then, following a quick counter attack, an Ings shot hit the cross bar and was cleared for a corner. Following the corner Ings shot from the edge of the area, the shot beating Schmeichel but again smacking against the bar. Two strikes of the crossbar within 60 seconds.

Half time was a relief to fans. In J2 the feeling was that we would settle for a draw rather than hope for a win. Some interesting statistics were exchanged such as Leicester having given away possession 45 times in the first half, most un-Leicester like.

Southampton started the second half on the front foot. Schmeichel failed to cut out a Bertrand free kick and the ball fell to the unmarked Stephens at the far post whose shot was blocked. Then Schmeichel saved a firm Ings header. Southampton’s high press tactics were confounding Leicester who were struggling to play through midfield in their usual way.

Even so Leicester started to exert pressure. Following a corner Evans headed a point blank effort but unfortunately straight at McCarthy who did well to hold on. Iheanacho came on for Barnes in the 58th minute and gave Leicester greater presence. One promising attack came to nothing following a superb Maddison pass to Chilwell but the full back’s attempted centre sailed high and wide.

In the 63rd minute VAR came to Leicester’s help. Long was played through and knocked over by Söyüncü in the penalty area. Referee Mason gave the penalty and booked Söyüncü. VAR intervened and ruled that Long was offside so no penalty.

At the other end Maddison was fouled and, following the free kick, Iheanacho put the ball in the net from close range but was flagged offside. With 25 minutes left Gray replaced Perez and added urgency and directness. Following a foul on Gray, Evans played a superb ball into the area but sadly just out of reach of the stretching Iheanacho. Maddison then played a through ball for Vardy which keeper McCarthy just reached first. Tielemans then came on to replace the excellent Praet.

In the 80th minute Southampton took the lead. Adams, who had replaced Long, played a through ball for Ings whose shot beat Schmeichel to register Ings’ 14th Premier League goal of the season. Southampton almost increased their lead following a counter attack from their own half. The ball came to Ings only ten yards out but Schmeichel made yet another top class save to foil the striker.

At the other end McCarthy made a smart save from Gray and then Iheanacho had a firm shot smothered by the advancing keeper. Leicester kept going forward. Following a foul, Maddison put in an excellent free kick from the right hand side. Evans headed the cross firmly into the roof of the net but Leicester’s joy was short lived as VAR ruled Evans offside.

That was the last roll of the dice. A disappointed but realistic Brendan Rodgers said: “The performance probably didn’t merit anything from the game. The players kept going right to the end and kept fighting. We didn’t press the game strong enough, or well enough, and then when we had the ball, we made too many mistakes. So, it looked like up until the end, it was going to be a draw, which we would have taken because we didn’t play well. However, they played through our midfield too easily and then they get in and get the goal, so it was a disappointing result.”

Leicester City: Schmeichel; Pereira; Söyüncü; Evans; Chilwell; Choudhury; Perez (substituted by Gray 67 minutes); Praet (substituted by Tielemans 77 minutes); Maddison; Barnes (substituted by Iheanacho 58 minutes); Vardy. Subs not used: Justin; Albrighton; Ward; Benkovic

Southampton: McCarthy; Cedric; Stephens; Bednarek; Bertrand; Armstrong (substituted by Djenepoat 78 minutes); Ward-Prowse; Hojbjerg; Redmond (substituted by Romeu 92 minutes); Long (substituted by Adams 78 minutes); Ings. Subs not used: Yoshida; Boufal; Obafemi; Gunn

Referee: Lee Mason.                      Attendance: 32,115

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