City work hard to take the points

Leicester 2 – 0 Southampton

Report by Chris Griffin

A hard-fought victory ended with City taking the points against a good Southampton team. City were second best in the first half but nevertheless Maddison snatched an excellent goal to give the home team a half-time lead. City were the stronger side in the second half but failed to convert several good chances until deep into overtime when Barnes stroked the ball into the Southampton net. The win took City up to second in the table, albeit temporarily.

Leicester brought back Vardy and Maddison who had missed the Stoke cup game through injuries. Schmeichel was playing his 400th official match in the City goalkeeper jersey. Ings was not available for the visitors whose last premier match had seen them beat Liverpool. Given City’s erratic home form this was clearly going to be a tough game. 

Southampton put pressure on Leicester right from the kick off, pressing high up the pitch and stopping City establishing their usual fluent passing game. Adams was taking the eye with his strong running behind the defence and Fofana did well to deal with one early run. After Fofana had picked up a yellow card for a foul on Walcott a misplaced Leicester pass saw Adams threaten again. His near post effort was scrambled away for a corner by Justin and Schmeichel.

This was a below par start by City but Southampton goalkeeper McCarthy was forced into a fine save from a fierce Barnes shot after Vardy had dummied the Southampton defence. A good Walcott pass sent Adams into the box again and Schmeichel did well to save a strong shot at the near post. Then Adams took the ball into the City box but Evans read the situation well with a well-timed tackle. At the other end Maddison had a chance to shoot but his effort flew wide.

City had been trying to put Vardy in the clear with long passes from midfield but Bednarek and Stephens in the heart of the visitors’ defence prevented the passes reaching their target. Southampton were still looking the most likely to score but City had one opportunity when Albrighton crossed but Vardy miskicked his shot from right in front of goal.

In the 37th minute City took the lead. City had started to combine some passing moves deep into Southampton’s defensive third and apply some pressure. Bednarek cleared one cross but the ball fell to Albrighton out wide. He passed inside to Tielemans who played a perfectly weighted through ball to Maddison in the Southampton area. Maddison turned and ran hard towards goal before lashing the ball into the roof of the net from a tight angle to give City the lead. It was a top-quality finish. Maddison’s celebration was also top quality as he mimed high fives and handshakes so ensuring compliance with football authorities’ requests to tone down goal celebrations due to the pandemic. 

Southampton hit back and an excellent Ward-Prowse pass sent Bertrand through. His fierce shot was superbly saved by Schmeichel. At the other end Barnes cut inside but steered his right foot shot beyond the far post. Barnes then embarked on an excellent dribble but his cut back pass unfortunately went behind the waiting Vardy. Half-time arrived with City one goal up.

City started the second half more assertively but that did not prevent Southampton setting Smallbone free into the City box where again Schmeichel made a good save. McCarthy came a long way off his line to punch clear an Albrighton cross from the top of Vardy’s head. City took Fofana off and replaced him with Soyuncu for the Turkish international’s first Premier game for many weeks. It is worth noting that he went on to have an excellent thirty minutes with his defensive qualities clear to all: it’s good to have him back.

Stoppages due to injuries were disrupting the fluency of both sides but even so a good move between Justin and Barnes led to Vardy heading an attempt on goal which went over the bar. Tielemans also played Vardy in but the striker’s effort went high and wide as did another effort following good work by Barnes.

Leicester clearly had a stronger foothold in the game and were setting the pace of play far more effectively than they had in the first half. However, Southampton continued to threaten and a thunderous long range shot from Armstrong beat Schmeichel only for the ball to crash against the bar. Evans collided with Long who was striving to gather the rebound. Luckily Long was offside so any anxieties about a penalty to the visitors were set aside.

More good work down the Leicester right from Castagne gave Maddison the chance to cross to the far post to Barnes. His shot goalward was cleared from near the goal line by Bednarek.

Perez came on for Maddison while at the other end a Justin challenge prevented Ward-Prowse’s shot threatening the City goal. Perez went on a great run down the right wing beating two defenders. Vardy met his cross with a good shot which was blocked by Bednarek. Then Vardy collected a long pass and cut the ball back for Ndidi who blazed over the bar. The game was ending with City on top but still not managing to convert a chance to make the result safe.

As five minutes over-time began it was concerning to see Vardy leave the pitch obviously in some discomfort. He was replaced by Iheanacho. Southampton kept plugging away. Evans cleared a corner and City fans were relieved to see Armstrong’s shot fly over the bar.

With Southampton seeking an equaliser there was plenty of space in the Southampton half and City exploited this to score a second goal. Tielemans gathered the ball in his own half, shrugged off a challenge and played the ball forward into the path of Barnes. Barnes sped in on goal and showed great coolness when he slipped the ball past the advancing McCarthy into the Southampton net.

The final whistle came immediately after the restart. City had shown great character and a real determination to win the points. The game was a real contest: a credit to both teams. As Brendan Rodgers commented: “It’s a very good win against a very good team.”

With only three days till the next game home to Chelsea rest and recuperation seem to be the priorities. Hopefully Vardy’s injury will not keep him out of the Chelsea game.

Leicester City: Schmeichel, Castagne, Fofana, Evans, Justin, Albrighton, Ndidi, Tielemans, Barnes, Maddison, Vardy.

Southampton: McCarthy, Walker-Peters, Stephens, Bednarek, Bertrand, Walcott, Ward-Prowse, Diallo, Armstrong, Adams, Smallbone.

Referee Stuart Attwell

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