Southampton v Leicester
St.Mary’s - Sunday, 22nd January 2017
> Good goals from Ward-Prowse and Rodriguez
> Long wins a penalty, converted by Tadić
> van Dijk off injured
IBO Reporter : Spot51
When I got in from dog-walking Sky’s broadcast had already started. The studio pundits were Henry and Souness. The latter was speculating about Saints selling Virgil this window – once we are out of both cups. I know he is an ex-Saints manager but the bastard tests my patience sometimes.
Leicester played as strong a side as they were able given their 3 absentees at ACON. Saints reverted to their “league” line-up. Only change since Burnley was J-Rod for Long. Sky’s commentary team was Davy Provan and Bill Leslie and they were discussing Leicester’s lack of an away win in the league this term. They had, however, won at Everton in the FA Cup.
Saints began on the front foot and their first attack caused panic in Leicester’s box. Big Pete was pressurised by Tadić who almost took the ball from him. The wily Dane recovered by playing the ball off JWP for a goal kick. Leicester responded but their first attack fizzled out when Fuchs’ cross sailed into the crowd. On 4m, Bertie replicated this move with his miss-hit cross landing in the Northam.
On 6m Tadić produced a peach of a cross from the left. Redmond met it but put his header over the bar. Then a lovely cross-field passing move delivered the ball to Tadić but his through-ball was played too far ahead of the overlapping Bertrand. On 9m more good play from Saints allowed Bertie to find Højbjerg. Not for the last time, PEH shot well wide of the target.
Leicester then mounted attacks of their own. Down the right Drinkwater robbed Bertie but was unable to capitalise. Then Fuchs got down the left but his cross went over Vardy in the middle. Next Saints got down the right and Cédric’s cross interested J-Rod but Morgan used his considerable frame to see off our #9.
It was end-to-end now. Gray went down the left before finding Drinkwater who missed the goal. Moments later Vardy got beyond Virgil but Fraser was quickly out to claim the ball. Leicester continued to press but could only muster a long range shot from Ndidi which Fraser gathered comfortably.
On 17m Højbjerg hit his worst shot of the match: Morgan headed a Tadić cross straight at the Dane. He did not realise how much time he had and lashed it horribly wide. On 19m, Tadić set up Redmond whose shot was tipped round the post. The corner was wasted and Gray ran the length of the pitch before shooting straight at Forster.
It looked a good game and Big Pete was kept on his toes by a series of Tadic crosses. Leicester kept probing and on 24m Højbjerg made a timely interception as Okazaki tried to find Gray breaking into our box. The Dane cleared upfield. On 26m Saints’ lovely passing move saw Redmond pick out Cédric overlapping down the right. The Portuguese had his head up and, instead of crossing, cut the ball back to the edge of the box. His pass fell right into the path of Ward-Prowse whose sweet, curling shot evaded Schmeichel’s dive and nestled in the far corner: 1-0 Saints.
On 28m Højbjerg finally got a shot on target but it struck Huth and went off for a corner. This kick went over all our attackers enabling Huth and Ndidi to get it away. Saints then won a free-kick which JWP put into Leicester’s box. They struggled to clear but Yoshida’s forward pass was too close to the keeper.
On 30m Okazaki earned his side a chance to equalise. He ran into Cédric just outside our box and went to ground. Where exactly Cédric was supposed to go I can’t fathom: but Leicester got a free-kick. Fuchs and Gray stood over the ball and, fortunately, the latter struck the ball which hit the wall and went for a corner. Virgil headed this away but Leicester recovered possession and won another free-kick when J-Rod supposedly handled the ball. Fuchs free-kick was awful.
On 35m the industrious Romeu won the ball in Leicester’s half enabling Bertie to win another corner. JWP’s kick was put behind for another. Tadić’s from the right was punched away. Another Leicester attack saw Gray again cutting in from the left but his shot was too high. The ref stopped the game on 37m after a clash of heads saw Højbjerg and Mendy flat out. Both sets of medics came on but the players were able to carry on.
Mendy was adjudged to have fouled our Dane, giving JWP another chance to put the ball into the box. His ball sought out the big men: Yoshida, Huth and Virgil all rose to meet it but none got a clean header. The ball dropped inside the box enabling Rodriguez to smash it past Schmeichel at his near post: 2-0 Saints.
Gray seemed to be Leicester’s sole threat. On 41m he cut inside Yoshida but again shot over the bar. Leicester kept plugging away but Saints sat back and saw off the danger. Then, on 44m, Saints might have won a penalty. Mr Oliver could not have seen Simpson with a good handful of Tadić’s shirt or would have awarded more than a corner. Big Pete punched JWP’s first kick but the ball was soon back at his feet. His second cross caused panic in the box before Leicester could clear.
Both sides made chances in 2 added minutes. First Vardy missed his then Saints worked the ball forward. Huth saved Leicester with a risky but perfectly timed sliding tackle to halt J-Rod’s progress. Half time: 2-0.
Mendy was withdrawn and replaced by Albrighton at half-time. Leicester also ditched the “diamond” and went for a standard 4-4-2. Gray and Vardy were the twin strikers and Okazaki now sat alongside Ndidi with Drinkwater and Albrighton on the flanks.
The first action of the half was another wayward shot from Højbjerg. Then Tadić sent a cross behind the goal. Moments later Vardy fouled Virgil and the big Dutchman went down. After treatment, Saints captain re-joined the game where Vardy’s every touch was soundly booed by the home fans.
On 54m Virgil went down again and this time there was no coming back. He hobbled from the field with Jack Stephens coming off the bench. Yoshida moved over to the left and, for a while at least, Romeu sat a little deeper to protect the defence. Stephens made a couple of nervous early mistakes but Leicester took no advantage. On 58m Albrighton was able to shoot but Fraser saved it.
On 60m Leicester gave the ball to Højbjerg who ran in on goal – this was his best chance of all, but again he failed to hit the target. A minute later Redmond picked out JWP but he too stuck his effort wide. At the other end, Albrighton’s hopeful cross sailed behind Fraser’s goal.
On 63m Musa replaced Okazaki. Saints then enjoyed a long period of possession during which Cédric had a shot blocked. The #2 was having a good game – the fans loved it when he took the ball off Vardy (still being booed) and brought it away. Leicester then mustered some attacks; on 68m Ndidi’s overhit pass went out for a goal kick but, a minute later, Drinkwater had a shot which went too high.
On 71m, a Romeu shot deflected off a defender and was creeping inside the post until Schmeichel pounced. Leicester then got forward but great defending by Cédric put the ball behind for a corner. Fraser punched the first cross but the Foxes recovered the ball and returned it into our box. A delicate cushioned header from Huth set up Leicester’s best chance of the day - but Morgan lashed his close-range shot over the top. Saints then replaced Højbjerg with Clasie.
On 74m Huth’s foul on Tadic allowed the Serb the opportunity to fire a cross between defence and keeper. His delivery was perfect: so much so that the stooping Morgan headed into his own net. 3-0? Apparently not – the linesman had his flag up. Replays showed a few hairs on Yoshida’s scalp may have been offside but whatever happened to allowing an advantage to the attacking team?
On 77m Redmond put another shot wide then, 2 minutes later, won a corner off Morgan. Before JWP took it, Saints brought on Long for J-Rod. The Irishman was celebrating his 30th birthday. The delayed corner was easily fielded by Schmeichel.
It was good to see Yoshida taking charge of Saints back-line. It should be no surprise as he is an experienced international defender and, with Fonte gone, he has the chance to secure a regular starting berth. Alongside him, Stephens had settled down and the tireless Romeu was doing all he could to impede Leicester’s progress.
On 82m Leicester put the ball into our box. Stephens headed away but the ball fell to Fuchs. He sized up his options before shooting wide of the goal. Saints continued to look the more dangerous. A Ward-Prowse cross was scrambled away before Long won a corner off Morgan. JWP found Tadić at the other side of the box but the Serb’s return ball sailed over everyone.
On 85m Long broke away from Morgan down the left. The centre-half pursued him into the box where his clattering tackle saw Mr Oliver point to the spot. Tadić stepped up. To be fair, I was hoping JWP might have taken it. I need not have worried – Dušan hit the ball high into the roof of the net: 3-0 Saints. On balance, it seemed no more than we deserved.
On 87m there was a lovely bit of defending. Bertie and Albrighton were at the far post with a cross swinging in towards them. At the last moment, Bertie ducked and the ball drifted harmlessly out of play.
Moments later, Long should have made it four. A beautiful move by Tadic and JWP produced a great pass into the box but Birthday Boy failed to connect and the ball rolled out. With time running out, Davy Provan chose JWP as Sky’s Man of the Match.
In the 4 added minutes, Schmeichel made another smart save, beating away Redmond’s shot. Saints then kept the ball, happy to let the clock run down. Then a final flurry of activity at both ends saw Long head JWP’s cross wide, Huth block a Cédric shot and Albrighton land a cross on the roof of Fraser’s net.
That was that: Saints had beaten the Champions 3-0. They leapt above Bournemouth and Burnley to 11th place in the table - and just 13 points away from that magical 40 point mark. Leicester still seek an away win in the league.
Plenty to choose from again: Ward-Prowse was most pundits’ choice, but Rodriguez, Romeu and Cedric all put in exceptional shifts. Still, my choice is Maya Yoshida. The Japan international has looked better and better all season. He is developing a sound partnership with Virgil but what swung my decision was the way Maya stepped up when Virgil limped off. He took control of our back line and Leicester’s frontmen looked no more likely to score after the big Dutchman left the park.
17 van Dijk (Stephens 55')
23 Højbjerg (Clasie 73')
9 Rodriguez (Long 80')
5 Morgan - Booked 85'
24 Mendy (Albrighton 45')
20 Okazaki (Musa 63')
SUN, 22 JAN 2017
Tadic 86' (pen)
Referee : Michael Oliver
Attendance : 30,548
Shots on Target