REPORT: Southampton 2-0 Leicester City
Substitute Shane Long came off the bench to be a two goal hero as Saints saw off Leicester City at St Mary’s.
A resilient Foxes team impressively held Ronald Koeman’s side at bay for much of this contest, but Saints, as they have done all season to-date, found a way to win against a tricky opponent.
The hosts huffed and puffed in a real battle of wits, particularly in the first-half, but a more composed second 45 performance, saw Saints eventually find a way to break down Leicester.
Sadio Mané, who had the ball in the net on 52 minutes but was correctly called offside, made way for Long in the 68th minute, and soon after, the Irishman took full advantage to strike twice in quick succession which helped Saints to their fifth win in a row from all competitions.
Ronald Koeman had made only one change to the team which started in the win at Hull, with fit-again Mané replacing Long in attack.
There was no return for Dean Hammond who was not named in the Leicester squad, but there were two changes to their line-up from the defeat to West Brom, with Jeffrey Schlupp and Leonardo Ulloa coming back in at the expense of Paul Konchesky and David Nugent.
Saints got the game under way after an impeccably observed minute’s silence for remembrance weekend and the club’s designated All Saints Day tribute, with the hosts attacking the Northam stand for the opening half.
Visitors Leicester prevented Koeman’s men from making an early impression, with few chances created from open play, as set-pieces became a theme of the first 45 minutes.
The dead ball situations slowed the tempo enough to work in the Foxes’ favour, but under the slippery wet conditions, a fiercely competitive encounter developed, with both teams struggling to get a foothold on the contest.
Leicester’s best chance of the half came through a header from Wes Morgan which cleared the bar, while Saints did manage to test Kasper Schmeichel when Nathaniel Clyne drilled a low strike towards the Foxes goal, which was held by the shot stopper.
Saints were forced into a change before the interval when Steven Davis became a victim of the robust nature of the game, as he made way for Jack Cork towards the end of the half.
The start to the second 45 offered hope of more goalmouth action, with Saints immediately making in-roads towards the Leicester area. On 49, Tadić delivered a low ball into Pellè, whose first time strike flew over the frame of the goal.
The hosts had the ball in the net three minutes later when Bertrand’s cross into the centre of the area, spun into the net off Mané, but the Senegalese was in an offside position and correctly flagged.
Pellè then screwed a low shot into side-netting, as Koeman’s men kept knocking on the door.
At the other end, Toby Alderweireld went into the book for a block on Jamie Vardy. The resulting free-kick on the edge of the area was taken by Esteban Cambiasso, but cannoned off the wall. The Foxes arose from that effort and saw Andy King hit a low shot into side-netting soon after.
With the game now much more open, Saints pushed on, and after Bertrand had a low strike from distance held by Schmeichel, the hosts forced four corners in succession as they ramped the pressure up on the Foxes.
The deadlock was eventually broken in the 75th minute. Shane Long had been on the pitch no longer than seven minutes before he made a vital intervention as he benefitted from Pellè’s hold up inside the area, to then curl a superb finish into the bottom corner for 1-0.
Four minutes later, Long repeated the trick of being in the right place to be the recipient of Victor Wanyama’s inch-perfect ball over the top, and then controlled a left-footed finish past Schmeichel to effectively seal the win.
Long threatened to grab himself a third goal when he burst through the middle, but a last ditch challenge from Wes Morgan prevented the run from going into the Leicester area.
Saints saw out the game with the solidity that has been their platform for success this season, with a seventh league clean sheet recorded by Fraser Forster, though how Chris Wood didn’t take full advantage of the late chance offered to him from six yards out, only he will know.
The final shot of the game from Long, almost drew a third goal for the substitute, but Saints settled for the two strikes which keep them second in the Premier League standings.
Southampton team: Fraser Forster, Nathaniel Clyne, José Fonte (c), Toby Alderweireld, Ryan Bertrand, Morgan Schneiderlin (Harrison Reed 90), Victor Wanyama, Steven Davis (Jack Cork 39), Sadio Mané (Shane Long 68), Dušan Tadić, Graziano Pellè
Unused substitutes: Kelvin Davis, Maya Yoshida, Florin Gardos, Emmanuel Mayuka
Goals: Long (75), (79)
Booked: Schneiderlin, Alderweireld
Leicester team: Kasper Schmeichel, Ritchie De Laet (Liam Moore 54), Wes Morgan (c), Marcin Wasilewski, Jeffrey Schlupp, Danny Drinkwater, Matty James, Esteban Cambiasso, Andy King (Nick Powell 76), Jamie Vardy, Leonardo Ulloa (Chris Wood 71)
Unused substitutes: Adam Smith, Paul Konchesky, Riyad Mahrez, David Nugent
Referee: Michael Oliver
Attendance: 31,297 (including 2,667 away)