Having come out fighting in his press conference this week, Claude Puel could really have done with a result to make his blows land. Instead, his side followed up defeat at League Two Newport County with a loss to Southampton that undermined his demands for critics to face ‘the truth’.
Puel said it was wrong for people to expect more than what he is producing, but this was another performance to file in the folder marked confusing. Against 10 men for more than half the contest, Leicester failed to create much at all and by the end Southampton deserved a victory that lifts them clear of the relegation zone.
Ralph Hasenhuttl came with a plan and though it was disrupted by Jan Valery’s dismissal in the first half, his players stuck to their tasks. In particular Jannik Vestergaard revelled in repelling Leicester’s crosses.
James Ward-Prowse scored a penalty in the opening 15 minutes of the game as Southampton took the lead at the King Power
The midfielder was clearly delighted with his strike as he leapt into the air to celebrate the goal on Saturday afternoon
Yan Valery was sent off during the first-half of the game after the right-back managed to pick up two yellow cards
But Shane Long doubled Southampton’s lead after beating Kasper Schmeichel by putting the ball into the back of the net
Stuart Armstrong (left) and Ward-Prowse dash over to Long as he slides in front of the Leicester fans to celebrate his goal
Wilfred Ndidi dashes away with the ball after bringing Leicester back into the game during the second-half
Southampton have now collected 10 points from their last six Premier League games and Hasenhuttl let out all his joy at the final whistle. He marched over to the jubilant away fans, took off his cap and bowed.
For Leicester, it was a third home defeat our of four and already those wins over Chelsea and Manchester City are fading into the rear-view mirror.
Puel was on the brink before then and while this result against the club who sacked him in 2017 is not expected to prove crucial there were loud boos at full-time.
There was one Leicester supporter who actually began this game asking for Puel’s removal. An elderly lady held up a piece of A4 paper with ‘Puel Out’ written on in felt tip, until a steward deemed it an item to confiscate.
Leicester may have started the game seventh in the table but Puel’s safety-first mantra leaves many fans dissatisfied and it was there again with his line-up here.
He picked a midfield of Hamza Choudhury, Nempalys Mendy and Wilfred Ndidi, and while each is a decent player in his own right they are similarly defensive-minded so start all three against a team such as Southampton was perplexing. Considering Hasenhuttl had neither Charlie Austin nor Danny Ings available, and selected a back-five system, it was cautious indeed.
Leicester manager Claude Puel and Southampton’s Ralph Hasenhuttl shake hands prior to kick-off at the King Power Stadium
Relegation-threatened Southampton show their unity ahead of kick-off as they gather for a huddle on the pitch
Ward-Prowse runs off after converting the penalty kick in the 11th minute of the Premier League match in Leicester
Yan Valery picked up a yellow card after being involved in a fracas between the two sides during the first-half
Wes Morgan saw an effort from inside the area cleared off the line as Leicester chased an equaliser in the first-half
Referee Michael Oliver shows the red card to young full-back Valery during the closing stages of the first-half on Saturday
Valery shows his dejection after being dismissed for picking up his second yellow card during the first-half on Saturday
Southampton’s plan was to play on the counter and with Nathan Redmond in fine form it was a tactic that had potential. In the ninth minute Stuart Armstrong released Redmond, who sprinted to the box and returned the pass. Mendy blocked Armstrong’s finish.
Southampton were ahead a minute later. It was a strange penalty award for but the correct call by Michael Oliver. Shane Long turned to meet a bouncing ball and Mendy wrapped his arm around his shoulder just inside the box. It was silly from Mendy and Long took the invitation to go down. Kasper Schmeichel got hands to James Ward-Prowse’s penalty but the shot was too strong.
Southampton had a claim for another spot-kick when Yan Valery tumbled from a kick by Ben Chilwell. Oliver did nothing, deeming it neither a dive nor a foul, and it was tough call to make.
Jack Stephens drew a good save from Schmeichel with a header and Leicester finally had an attempt to speak of in the 33rd minute when Harry Maguire nodded wide from Chilwell’s cross.
But Long doubled Southampton’s lead shortly after as the visitors continued their impressive display in the league game
Harry Maguire walks away with his hands on his hips after his side conceded their second goal on Saturday afternoon
James Maddison sends a free-kick directly into the wall as Leicester attempt to recover from the two-goal deficit
The England left-back was then involved in a flashpoint that ultimately left Southampton a man down. Valery launched into a bad foul on Chilwell, who responded with a shove. Valery also pushed out but Oliver gave a caution to both. From James Maddison’s free-kick Jannick Vestegaard erred and Wes Morgan poked towards goal. But Jan Bednarek swept off the line.
Valery’s earlier altercation came back to haunt him when he followed a nibble at Marc Albrighton with a quick tug as the winger ran past him. It was only a small act of indiscretion but deprived Southampton an attack and Oliver had every right to show a second yellow.
Just when it seemed Leicester would go in at the break with a bounce, though, the visitors stretched their lead. It was dismal from a Leicester perspective.
Alex McCarthy hit a long clearance towards Shane Long, who made himself a nuisance. Ricardo Pereira got his header badly wrong and Mendy criminally underhit a back pass. Long was in on a tight angle and aimed to lift his finish into the far corner. The shot actually looked like it was heading just wide until Schmeichel, in an effort to save, diverted the ball into the corner with his left hand.
Ricardo Pereira of Leicester City battles for the ball in the air with Southampton striker and goalscorer Long
Oriol Romeu and Ward-Prowse track Leicester winger Demarai Gray as they try and win the ball back from him
It went down as Long’s first Premier League strike since last April but may be revisited by the dubious goals panel.
Puel recognised his side was crying out for more creativity and at the interval sent on Demarai Gray and Harvey Barnes, fresh from his recall from West Bromwich Albion.
Barnes deflected a long-range shot from Maguire to trouble McCarthy, then Maddison drew another save from the Southampton goalkeeper with a distance strike.
It was a little too desperate but just before the hour Leicester put together a neat move to pull one back. Maddison and Gray were involved before Ricardo burst to the byline and pulled back a cross that Ndidi just about managed o bundle in.
To firm up his side Hassenhuttl switched to a 5-3-1 and sent on Cedric Soares, asking Leicester to break them down and leaving Redmond up front for any breaks. And as much as Leicester tried they lacked guile, resorting too frequently to shots from range.
Wilfred Ndidi eventually halved the deficit by knocking a cross into the back of the Southampton net at the King Power
Puel shows his frustration on the touchline as his side failed to overcome Southampton despite a man advantage