Leicester City demolished 10-man Southampton by a record-setting score of 9-0 at St. Mary’s on a rainy Friday evening. Hat-tricks from Ayoze Perez and Jamie Vardy, plus goals from Ben Chilwell, Youri Tielemans, and James Maddison set a new Premier League record for the heaviest away victory and joint-largest margin of victory.
Manager Brendan Rodgers kept the faith with the starting XI that beat Burnley last Saturday. Kasper Schmeichel started between the sticks behind a back four of Ricardo Pereira, Jonny Evans, Çağlar Söyüncü, and Ben Chilwell. Wilfred Ndidi returned in the holding role behind a central midfield partnership of Youri Tielemans and James Maddison. Ayoze Perez and Harvey Barnes lined up on the right and left wings respectively, with Jamie Vardy once again the sole striker up top.
The opening period of play was...not good. With the rain pouring down on the south coast, the pitch was incredibly slow and the quality of passing might be charitably described as “unfortunate”. Referee Andre Marriner’s whistle seemed to be adversely affected by the weather as it went un-heard in spite of some meaty challenges by both sides.
Leicester missed out on an early chance when Maddison chose to protest an uncalled foul instead of pouncing on the ball. Ndidi made no such mistake, jumping on a ball after Ryan Bertrand clashed with Tielemans on the wing. The Nigeria man tried to slide the ball to Madders, but Chilwell took the ball off his toes and played in Barnes. The first-time shot was well-saved but pushed directly into the path of Chilly, who kept his calm and passed the ball into the net for his first goal of the season.
It got even worse for the hosts moments later. Marriner had cleverly played advantage by not seeing the foul on Tielemans, but VAR was wise to it. Bertrand had gone in studs-up on Tielemans’ trailing leg, missing the ball entirely. Marriner produced a straight red and, within a matter of seconds, it looked as thought a potentially tricky tie was over.
It would have been rude not to take advantage of the of their hosts generosity and the Foxes were in the mood to be gracious guests. Leicester set up camp deep in the Southampton half and looked dangerous whenever they probed the defense. It took only five minutes to double the lead. Chilwell combined well with Barnes, who poked a low cross towards the penalty spot. Yan Valery got a toe to it, but he only knocked it as far as Tielemans, who kept his cool (as always) and knocked it past the stranded Angus Gunn.
It took all of two minutes for Leicester to get the third. Attacking down the right this time, Ricardo and Tielemans worked the ball into the area with some quick, one-touch passing that opened up the defense for Ayoze. The former Newcastle man lashed it first time and beat Gunn all ends up, getting his first goal in a Leicester shirt and surely putting the game beyond reach.
The foot came a bit off the gas for a spell with some sloppy passing and Southampton gradually starting to get a foothold in the match. The Saints finally put together a dangerous attack on the half hour mark. An expansive move on both flanks saw the Leicester defense carved open, but Valery’s shot was weak and directly at Schmeichel.
This seemed to get the Foxes moving again. Ayoze fired directly at the keeper and then Barnes put one under Gunn, but he was able to recover and pull the ball back off the line. Leicester weren’t going to be denied a fourth and it was Ayoze again who did the damage. A patient passing move saw Leicester move the ball from the right to left side. Chilwell spotted the Spaniard’s run at the far post and laid an inch-perfect cross into his path. As good as the pass was, the finish on the half-volley was its equal and once again Gunn had no chance.
It got worse for Southampton, although at this point, “worse” was an almost irrelevant description. Chilwell, who seemed to be involved in everything good today, crossed into the box for Barnes. Pierre-Emile Højbjerg got a head to it, but he put it directly in the path of Vardy. His first touch was immaculate and he smashed it in the back of the net with the aplomb of a man who has scored more Premier League goals than anyone else since Rodgers’ arrival. That was it for the half, but, greedy though I am, I couldn’t dream of asking for anything more.
During the half-time intermission, I was forced to watch the NBC FanFest setting up for their big event in my home of Austin. Of course this is the only match not being played during the fest. I’m not bitter or anything. It’s like the old cliche: “Going in to the tunnel up 5-0 at the half is the best revenge.”
City nearly got the second half off to a flying start. An early attack was broken up by Maya Yoshida, but he lingered on the ball and Vardy was on it in a flash. His shot from a tight angle was put behind for a corner. The Foxes worked a neat routine that ended with Evans flicking the ball on goal, but he failed to beat Gunn with the cheeky effort.
Look, I normally try to describe every Leicester attack which results in at least a half-chance, but that’s not going to happen today. I’m as professional as the next guy (presuming that the next guy isn’t unusually professional), but in the time it took me to write that last paragraph, there were no fewer than four Leicester attacks of note. I simply can’t keep up. Just imagine every manner of flowing attack that this group of players could possibly manage, minus scoring a goal, and the odds are that something very much like that happened in the opening ten minutes of the second half.
If one of the attacks you imagined ended with Barnes lifting a perfect ball over the Southampton back line to find Ayoze beating the offside trap, then congratulations! You just imagined goal number six. The pass couldn’t have been timed better, and Ayoze did well to chest it down and then blast it past the stranded keeper with no defenders in sight.
It wouldn’t stay 6-0 for long, however. Barnes slipped in Chilwell with a well-weighted ball. The England fullback got to the line and centered for Vardy, who was allowed to rise unchallenged for the ball and plant it past Gunn from close range.
The pace of the match slackened a bit and the Saints were starting to see more of the ball in the Leicester half. Nathan Redmond managed to work his way around both centre-halfs, but his curling effort was palmed away by Schmeichel. This prompted Rodgers to make his first change, taking off the impressive Barnes for Marc Albrighton. After putting in a low cross that Evans just failed to poke home, Ayoze was withdrawn in favor of Demarai Gray.
The game was sauntering towards the final whistle when Saints made the mistake of fouling Vardy just outside the penalty box. Maddison had been unusually quiet during this rout, but this was very much his territory. Gunn let the wall cover the near post as he cheated towards the far one. This proved a poor decision, as Madders got the ball up and down over the wall and into the back of the net, making it 8-0.
With the second minute of stoppage time, it was shades of 2015/16 when was put Vardy in behind the defense. With the former Fleetwood Town striker bearing down on goal, Jan Bednarek put in a clumsy challenge that was as obvious a penalty as you’d like. Vardy took responsibility himself and blasted the spot kick past Gunn to provide the final, record-breaking goal for the Foxes.
9-0. Pick any superlative and you’re still nowhere near the truth of it. Southampton were as poor as I’ve seen a team at any level, but as hopeless as they were, we were equally imperious. It doesn’t get any better than this and I’ll leave it at that.
Not sure if I’ve just witnessed an amazing performance or a completely abject one! I suspect a bit of both. Well played @LCFC ruthlessly professional— Matt Le Tissier (@mattletiss7) October 25, 2019
They could have used you tonight, Matt. #Legend
Who stood out? Well, when you’re scoring a goal every ten minutes and keeping a clean sheet, the correct answer is: “Everyone”. But, since I’m contractually obligated to provide a few names (Note: Jake is not under any contract whatsoever) I’d like to give a shout-out to Harvey Barnes, who had what I think was his best match in a Leicester shirt. The same may well be true of Ben Chilwell, and obviously, Ayoze breaking his duck with a hat trick is all manner of impressive.
The victory brings the Foxes up to 2nd on the table with a +17 goal differential. We’re back in action on Tuesday when we travel to Staffordshire to face Burton Albion in the League Cup. We resume Premier League action on Sunday, facing Crystal Palace at Selhurt Park.