Defeat For City In Southampton
Carlos Alcaraz's first-half breakaway strike was the difference on the south coast, after Danny Ward saved a James Ward-Prowse penalty. The Foxes have now lost four games in a row in all competitions.
Tuesday’s Emirates FA Cup reverse to Sky Bet Championship side Blackburn Rovers prompted manager Brendan Rodgers to make six changes to his XI. The omission of Victor Kristiansen, however, was forced on the Northern Irishman. City’s new left-back, signed from FC Copenhagen in January, will be out for four weeks with an ankle injury. Top scorer James Maddison’s return from illness was more welcome news for the visitors. Ricardo Pereira also made a first Premier League start of the season after his own recovery from a long-term Achilles injury sustained last August.
It was the Saints who pushed forwards first. Ainsley Maitland-Niles raced past Wout Faes on the right, abruptly finding himself inside the penalty area. His low ball located Theo Walcott centrally. The former Arsenal and Everton man’s first-time hit, however, scuffed the ankles of team-mate Kamaldeen Sulemana and the moment was lost. Ricardo was soon left unattended in the opposite box, after a cutting pass from Maddison. The Portuguese had more time than he perhaps realised and Gavin Bazunu, the home goalkeeper, will have been relieved to see him hurriedly blaze it over.
Kelechi Iheanacho is a man in form for the Foxes, but the Nigerian missed his chance to make it five goals in seven matches on several occasions. Nineteen minutes in, Maddison lofted a free-kick into the mixer, from the left-sided angle of the area. Both Jan Bednarek and Armel Bella-Kotchap left Iheanacho unattended – around four yards out – although the ex-Manchester City striker nodded it wide. Leicester were trying to seize an element of control over the game, but things were about to take a turn.
On the half-hour, Walcott’s cross hit Timothy Castagne’s arm in the box. It was a penalty. Naturally the taker was Ward-Prowse – making history as his club’s top appearance-maker in the Premier League. The England midfielder struck low, to Ward’s right. The City ‘keeper threw his body the correct way, getting a strong hand on it, propelling the ball away from danger. The first-half drama wasn’t finished yet, though. Albeit a setback for the southern hosts, the St. Mary’s crowd was lifted. Ruben Selles’ men were marching on regardless – and they’d be in front minutes later.
The stalemate was lifted with 10 to go until the break. Maitland-Niles’ forward ball was shuttled along by Leicester-born Ché Adams, just past the half-way line. His quick-thinking turn and pass picked out Alcaraz. The winger, bought by Southampton from Argentinian outfit Racing Club this winter, galloped into its path. He carried the ball for a while, looking up, before side-footing it into Ward’s bottom right corner. There was an anxious wait for the locals as Stockley Park drew their lines, suspecting Adams to have strayed the wrong side of Harry Souttar. The goal stood in any case.
Into the second half, Leicester introduced Dennis Praet from the bench, taking Harvey Barnes’ place on the left channel. Before long, Rodgers’ men were progressing up the field, with Maddison crossing into the area, but Iheanacho headed it low and wide of Bazunu’s bottom far corner. It was desperately close for the Foxes – arguably their best opportunity of the game up until then. They were dominating possession, but Southampton weren’t letting them get close enough to goal to do anything with it.
Even when Bazunu handed it straight to Iheanacho – with an ill-advised clearance straight at Leicester’s No.14 – it didn’t go in. The lone forward curled it over the bar unchallenged from the edge of the Saints area. That sparked a double substitution from Rodgers. Jamie Vardy and Wilfred Ndidi were on for the final 20 minutes. It gave City’s midfielders more attacking options to aim at. Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall’s cross, from the left side, yearned for Vardy’s head. The Club’s all-time top Premier League goalscorer crouched, attempting a low header, but couldn’t make contact.
There was always the risk of a counter. When Sékou Mara stopped Ndidi from shooting deep into Southampton territory, he raced out of the blocks and in fact prevented his own clearance from bobbling out of play, later scampering at goal. Faes was there at the right moment to cut out his pass to Adam Armstrong. The danger was averted, but it was a warning. From preventing a goal at one end, Faes will rue heading Maddison's corner behind with just four minutes of normal time to play.
Offered five additional minutes to rescue a point, even with Ward up for a corner, Leicester couldn't plot a way through. Souttar's header hitting the bar in the final seconds summed it up. An agonising defeat on the south coast.
Major moment – Souttar rattles the bar
Defender Harry Souttar went so, so close to levelling in the final stages.
The margins are so fine. Leicester were throwing everything at Southampton in added time. Harry Souttar stretched all 6ft 6ins of his giant frame to glance a header at goal in the dying moments, but it wasn't to be.
Where do we stand? – 15th
Kelechi Iheanacho couldn't find the target for the Foxes.
Leicester drop to 15th in the Premier League table, three points above the bottom three.
Coming up – Chelsea await
Jamie Vardy came on for the latter stages in Southampton.
Graham Potter’s Chelsea are due at King Power Stadium next Saturday (3pm GMT kick-off). Brentford are then the hosts in the capital seven days later.
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