Leicester City came back to earn a draw against 10-man Southampton on Friday at the St. Mary’s. Jannik Vestergaard’s tackle on Jamie Vardy saw the Dane sent off inside the first quarter hour in a goalless first half. A James Ward-Prowse penalty gave the Saints the lead against the run of play and it was quickly cancelled by a Jonny Evans header. City piled on the pressure at the end but couldn’t find a way to break down the determined Saints’ defense.
Brendan Rodgers has reinforced the message behind an upcoming boycott of social media across English football in response to ongoing and sustained discriminatory abuse online.#StopOnlineAbuse— Leicester City (@LCFC) April 30, 2021
It’s been REALLY hard to find good tweets to link today. This is why.
Manager Brendan Rodgers stuck with the same lineup for the third straight match, which wasn’t exactly a surprise. Kasper Schmeichel started in goal, marshalling a back three of Wesley Fofana, Jonny Evans, and Çağlar Söyüncü. Wingbacks Timothy Castagne and Luke Thomas flanked the central midfield partnership of Youri Tielemans and Wilfred Ndidi. James Maddison slotted in behind the two-pronged strike force of Kelechi Iheanacho and Jamie Vardy.
The Saints had the ball in the back of the net on only three minutes. Jannik Vestergaard played a ball over the top of the Foxes’ defense. Kyle Walker-Peters ran on to it in acres of space. One on one with Schmeichel, he held his nerve and lifted the ball over the keeper and into the net. The former Spurs man was well offside, something everyone in the stadium knew, but the flag stayed down until after the ball was in the net because that’s how things work these days because...reasons.
Southampton really ought to have taken the lead just minutes later. Söyüncü was caught in possession near the Leicester area. Takumi Minamino stole in and squared the ball for Nathan Tella alone on the penalty spot. The Ghana man fluffed his lines and sent the tamest of shots directly into Schmeichel’s arms.
Jannik Vestergaard returned the favor in an absolutely baffling fashion. He lingered on the ball, allowing Vardy to get on it just outside the penalty area. The Dane dove in to recover the ball and what happened next was the subject of tremendous controversy. Vestergaard knocked the ball away from Vardy, but went studs-first into the former England international’s ankle with the follow through.
Referee Robert Jones showed the red. The commentators felt it was a mistake, as Vardy was never going to recover the ball. However, Jones’ card seemed to be for dangerous play, not for a denying a clear goal scoring opportunity and thus, winning the ball first made no difference. The call was made, VAR confirmed it, and the Saints were reduced to ten men on just twelve minutes.
If that sounds familiar, rest assured that the commentators were eager to remind everyone about the 9-0 match. This, however, would be nothing like that. Leicester had all of the possession, a half dozen corners, and nothing remotely resembling a clear-cut chance. Southampton defended resolutely and even tried to get forward a few times and didn’t look at all like collapsing.
Tielemans had a close-range effort turned aside by Alex McCarthy’s knee and that would be as close as Leicester would get to scoring as the half ended with a goal but certainly not without incident.
Rodgers made one change at the half, and it’s probably not the one anyone was expecting. Fofana was withdrawn in favor of Ayoze Perez in an attempt to add more creativity to break down the packed Southampton defense. As expected, the match continued to feature one-way traffic in front of Southampton goal, but not “in the Southampton goal” which was becoming a point of frustration.
It became significantly more than frustrating as the Saints’ first attack of the second half resulted in them taking the lead on the hour mark. Castagne was whistled for fouling James Ward-Prowse almost level with the goal on the left wing. The free kick was worked back to Stuart Armstrong, who blasted a shot directly into Iheanacho. The Nigeria man raised his arms to protect his face and, as this is not a natural thing to do, the referee pointed to the spot. Schmeichel guessed correctly, but Ward-Prowse’s effort was too well-struck to keep out.
Fortunately, the lead was short-lived. Rodgers brought off Thomas, switched Castagne to the left, and introduced Marc Albrighton. City won a parade o’ corners, taking each of them short since hoofing them into the box didn’t seem to be working. One was worked to Iheanacho, who swung a ball towards the far corner. It may have been going wide, but we’ll never know as Evans got a forehead to it and planted it past McCarthy to restore parity.
The best chance of the match fell to Vardy on 83’ minutes. A Southampton turnover in the middle of the park saw the ball fall to Madders outside the “D”. He slipped the ball to Vardy on the left. He left his man for dead, cut inside, and smashed the ball towards the near post, but McCarthy was equal to it and made a brilliant leg save.
Vardy got loose again, this time further outside. He waited for runners and found Ndidi alone just inside the area. He kept the shot down and beat the keeper, but it was just wide of the post. It was just constant pressure now. Iheanacho just failed to get his head on an inviting cross. Another cross just evaded Vardy but fell to Castagne, who couldn’t direct his shot on target from a difficult angle. That proved the final action of the match as the Foxes were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw.
You can’t say Southampton didn’t deserve it. Leicester were far from their best and Southampton defended brilliantly. Their goal was a fluke, but their work rate was fantastic and Leicester just couldn’t find a way through. We weren’t bad, but man, we weren’t great. We’re one point closer to the Champions League; beat Newcastle and we’re almost there.
The draw gives us 63 points from 34 match, surpassing last year’s total and giving us an 8 point cushion over 5th placed West Ham. We host Newcastle in one week, and then it’s off to London for the FA Cup final against Chelsea.
Oh well, it was a good graphic.