Leicester v Southampton
12th January 2019
Shane Long scored his first goal in a long, long, long time.
IBO Reporter : channonite
Leading up to this match it was almost a perfect storm of injuries, suspension, international absence and square pegs in round holes for Ralph Hasenhüttl to cope with. Saints have said goodbye to both Steven Davis, who has returned north of the border to Rangers and Manolo Gabbiadini, who has been sold to Sampdoria for an undisclosed amount. Added to which Fraser Forster and Wesley Hoedt have been told to look for other clubs, Maya Yoshida is on internatioanl duty with Japan and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg is still suspended.
Whatever the individual shortcomings of the players, there is no doubt that The Hutch™ is gradually turning them into a decent, balanced team and players like Bednarek and Romeu, who were frozen out under Hughes, are back playing well again, while players like Ward-Prowse, Redmond and Vestergaard are looking rejuvenated under the new manager.
McCarthy returned in goal, after Gunn had his promised couple of games. Again Hasenhüttl chose to go with three at the back, with Bednarek, Stephens and Vestergaard. The wing backs were once again Valery and Targett.
Midfield was Romeu and Ward-Prowse, with Redmond and Armstrong out wide and Long on his own at the front.
On the bench were Cédric, Elyounoussi, Gallagher, Gunn, Sims, Slattery and Ramsay, which just illustrates perfectly how much things have changed. Gallagher in particular has only just returned from an injury and by no stretch of the imagination could be regarded as even close to match fit.
The new, more challenging, attacking mentality was evident very early on when what should have been a routine clearance from Schmeichel turned into a chance for Saints. The Leicester keeper had the ball, but an onrushing Redmond made him rush his clearance. Then amazingly Redmond turned tail and chased the ball upfield and combining with Romeu and Armstrong dispossessed the Leicester player. Armstrong then cut in from the right with the ball and got a shot off, which sailed just to the left of the far post. And that was just the start. Redmond and Armstrong combined just a few moments later, culminating in another chance for the Scot, which again sailed agonisingly wide of the near post, hitting the side netting.
Leicester were clearly rattled by this 'mend and make do' Saints side. Just after the ten minute mark things got even better. Armstrong again involved, played a cute ball over the head of a Leicester defender to Shane Long on the edge of the penalty area. Long strode forward, only to be unceremoniously hauled down by Mendy. The referee had a perfect view and didn't hesitate, pointing to the spot. Penalty.
Ward-Prowse took the ball and struck, hard and low into the left corner of the net. Schmeichel guessed the right way, but such was the power of Ward-Prowse shot, that he could not reach the ball in time. 0-1 and deservedly so.
During the next few minutes a bit of a battle developed down Saints right between Valery and Chilwell, with the Leicester player being very 'robust' in his brushes with the young Frenchman. Just after the half-hour Valery came in fairly hard in the tackle and it ended with the pair of them wrestling each other. The referee gave a free kick and booked both players.
From the resulting free kick Morgan must have thought he had scored, but at the last second Bednarek appeared and hacked the ball almost off the line, away, via Vestergaard for a corner, which ultimately came to nothing. Great piece of defending from the Pole.
Then, right on the 45' mark Valery showed his inexperience, clumsily tackling Albrighton. Mr. Oliver was not slow in reaching for his cards, showing in rapid succession a yellow, followed by a red and the young Frenchman disconsolately trudged off the pitch. A learning experience for the Saints player.
We were now into time added on at the end of the first 45' and you would think that Saints would have just been thinking about getting into the dressing room to collect their thoughts, but no. Deep into that time added on, the ball was played forward by Saints and found it's way to Shane Long, who rounded two Leicester players and from a very acute angle on the left shot at goal, which the keeper couldn't keep out! Down to nine men and they had just scored again. 0-2. I liked the Radio Solent commentary, with Adam Blackmore's "....Shane Long shoots and Shane Long scores! I am not joking, Shane Long scores!". Brilliant stuff.
So, half time, a patched up team, down to nine and leading 0-2. You couldn't make it up.
I have no notes for the second half, as I spent the entire time chewing my fingernails. Once Leicester scored in the 58th minute, it was real backs to the wall stuff. Suffice to say that the heroics of the Saints players was immense. It seems churlish to single any particular player out, but I will. Romeu was fantastic, this was the player I remember from two seasons ago. Dominating, orchestrating, leading. A rock. Bednarek was everything that a central defender should be. And more. Vestergaard. Bloody Hell, he CAN play football. He may not be fast, he may need someone faster on the ground, like Stephens to mop up around him, but he is beginning to look halfway decent.
When the final whistle went i was just so proud of and so pleased for the team. These past two and a half seasons things have just been getting worse and worse. We are not out of the woods yet, by any means, but it just feels as though we have our Saints back again.
Man of the Match
Close between Romeu and Bednarek, but in my mind Oriol Romeu was the player we have been missing the most and was everywhere. Massive, massive game for him.
And Finally ...
A few words for Ralph Hasenhüttl. He has been immense since he arrived and has managed to forge a team out of a random collection of disillusioned, unfit players. How on earth did we manage to get him?
Ward-Prowse scored the penalty in the 11th minute
14 Ricardo Pereira
3 Chilwell - Booked 35'
38 Choudhury (Ghezzal 76')
24 Mendy (Barnes 45')
11 Albrighton (Gray 45')
10 Maddison - Booked 20'
5 Stephens - Booked 54'
43 Valery Dismissed (2nd yellow) 45'
22 Redmond (Gallagher 90'+3)
17 Armstrong (Cédric 57')
7 Long (Slattery 76')
Saturday 12th January
- Ndidi 58'
- Ward-Prowse 11' (pen)
- Long 45'+2
Referee: Michael Oliver
- Leicester 72%
- Southampton 28%
- Leicester 23
- Southampton 8
Shots on Target
- Leicester 6
- Southampton 3
- Leicester 10
- Southampton 3
- Leicester 7
- Southampton 9