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Premier League Match Report: Leicester City 1 - 2 Southampton

Don’t let the scoreline fool you: The Foxes weren’t really in this one.

Leicester City v Southampton FC - Premier League Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Leicester City fell to Southampton by a score of 2-1 on Saturday afternoon at the King Power. Dennis Praet opened his Leicester account in the first half, but this was quickly cancelled by a Stuart Armstrong strike for the Saints. Danny Ings scored the lone goal of the second period as the Foxes had three goals ruled out for offside.

This is literally true, since we’re the only team to have even won 9-0 away.

Manager Brendan Rodgers made two changes to that side that drew Villa in the League Cup semi-final on Wednesday, but the biggest change was a reversion to the 4-1-4-1 that has been City’s primary formation this season. Kasper Schmeichel started in goal behind a back four of Ricardo Pereira, Jonny Evans, Çağlar Söyüncü , and Ben Chilwell. Hamza Choudhury got the nod in holding midfield slot with Wilfred Ndidi out for the month. The midfield four consisted of Ayoze Perez on the right, Dennis Praet and James Maddison in the middle, and Harvey Barnes on the left. Jamie Vardy looked to add to his Premier League-leading tally of 17 goals as the lone striker.

It was the Premier League’s #2 scorer, Danny Ings, who had the early opportunity to add to his tally. A poor pass from Barnes was poorly dealt with by Söyüncü, giving the ball to the former Liverpool striker all alone on the penalty spot. Schmeichel did well to come out, make himself big, and block the first effort. Ings was first to the loose ball and Schmeichel did even better to block the follow-up.

It’s strange to say this about a home match against a side we beat 9-0 away, but Leicester’s opener came against the run of play. A quickly-taken free kick in the Leicester half caught the Saints’ defense flat and Vardy was off to the races. He took the ball down the left and curled the ball across the face of the goal to meet Praet’s run. The Belgium man smashed home from close range for his first Leicester goal.

Leicester City v Southampton FC - Premier League
The exact face I would have made had I bet on Praet to be the first scorer in a match featuring Ings and Vardy.
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The lead didn’t last long as the Saints got level again in farcical fashion. Some poor defending gave Southampton possession deep in the Leicester area. A low ball across the top of the area was dummied to Stuart Armstrong on the right side. He cut inside and fired towards the far post, but it looked like Schmeichel had it covered. Or he would have, but the ball deflected off of the leaping Maddison, wrong-footing Schmeichel, and allowing the ball to bounce in at the near post.

The Foxes had the ball in the back of the net on the half hour mark. A sloppy pass in midfield was tapped between the defenders to the lurking Vardy. He turned and blasted the ball low. Alex McCarthy got a hand to it but couldn’t keep it out. Unfortunately, the fact that Vardy was in an offside position was spotted by the referee, the linesman, and VAR and the goal was chalked off.

The hosts were fortunate not to go down a goal right before the half. A poor Chilwell pass let the Saints in on the right and Ings just beat Söyüncü at the near post, but he just toed the ball onto the bar. From the ensuing corner, Leicester struggled to clear the ball. Maddison miscontrolled it and gave Ings another look at the goal, this time a snap shot from distance. It beat Schmeichel, but cannoned back off the bar.

The Saints ended the half well on top, with the Foxes struggling to string passes together and lacking any fluency whatsoever. Leicester were very fortunate to be level, or, to be honest, to be within shouting distance when the whistle blew.

The second half started the way the first one ended, which was not what Rodgers would have wanted. An early Saints free kick found Jack Stevens alone at the far post. Schmeichel had completely missed the cross, so it was up to Söyüncü to clear the shot off the line. The clearance fell on the right wing, where Armstrong completely bamboozled three defenders and had ages to pick out his cross, finding Ings in the center, but his header was directly at Schmeichel.

At long last, the Foxes started to wake from their hibernation. Praet won a corner on the left side and Maddison’s delivery was a beauty. Evans met it in the six yard box and the ball looked to be going in, but McCarthy did extremely well to turn it away. The energy was there, but the quality wasn’t, so Rodgers made his first change of the match on just 57’, withdrawing Barnes for Kelechi Iheanacho.

It was, however, the visitors who were denied by millimeters. Southampton broke at pace and Ings laid a beautiful through ball in the path of Shane Long. Long did the Vardy thing of cutting directly in front of the defender to win the very obvious penalty against Söyüncü. However, Long was just a tiny, tiny bit offside so the penalty and Slabchin’s yellow card were rescinded.

If I may editorialize here, and I may, the commentators clearly do no know the offside rule with regards to VAR. They were moaning about how they “thought it [VAR reversing a ruling] was only for a clear and obvious error.” That is absolutely not the rule. The linesman is instructed to keep the flag down if it is close and there is a scoring opportunity and then let VAR determine if the player was off or not. This isn’t a judgement call; a player is offside or they aren’t. I understand the frustration, but at least learn the rules before complaining.

Anyway, Leicester had an Iheanacho goal ruled out for offside moments later, so there’s that.

The run of play was still running in the wrong direction, so Rodgers made another change, swapping Demarai Gray for Ayoze on 70’. The play was more even now, with the Foxes maybe just edging it, but again, it was the Saints who had the next opportunity. A neat through ball to Ings was well-blocked by Schmeichel and then spectacularly cleared off the line by a Söyüncü bicycle-kick. Ings was a yard offside, so it wouldn’t have counted, but it was impressive.

As if he wasn’t dreamy enough...
Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images

Rodgers made his last change, introducing Youri Tielemans for Praet. Like with all the changes, the Saints were the ones who seemed to get the initial boost. Leicester turned the ball over in midfield yet again and the Danny Ings finally made them pay. He timed his run behind three defenders perfectly and nutmegged Schmeichel. The keeper got both legs to it, but it bobbled over the line.

He should have had another just moments later. Leicester were sloppy with the ball again and exposed Söyüncü to a 2-on-1 with Nathan Redmond and Ings. He followed ball-carrying Redmond, who centered for the unmarked Ings. His first time shot was brilliantly turned around the bar by Schmeichel.

85’ minutes gone and Leicester finally started to show some life. McCarthy did well to save a Gray effort from the left side and then better to deny Iheanacho on the right. Madders won a free kick on the right wing and Evans got to it first, smashing it into the net, but VAR spotted the fact that Evans was offside and it was disallowed.

Leicester failed to muster another attack in the five minutes of injury time which was as unfortunate as it was appropriate. The whistle went and the team we beat 9-0 on the south coast left with a richly-deserved 2-1 victory.

The fact that we had three goals disallowed for offside will make it sound better than it really was. Southampton could, and probably should, have scored three or four more. Schmeichel was brilliant in goal, as was the crossbar, but there was very little else that was good from Leicester today.

Schmeichel alone cost Ryan $4,000 today.

This was a real team effort, and not in a good way. We constantly gave the ball away cheaply and we were second to all loose balls. I don’t know the cause, but my sense is that the match on Wednesday left us with tired legs that the visitors were able to exploit. With midweek dates in Europe likely in the cards for us next year, we need to be more able to deal with abbreviated rest periods.

The defeats leaves us with 45 points from 22 matches and still second on the table, although there’s a strong possibility this will no longer be the case after the weekend. We do get seven days off before our next league match away to Burnley. After that, we host David Moyes’ West Ham the following Wednesday.