Friday 17 August 2018

Saints take a point but remain in deep trouble

Goalless draw at Leicester does little to help.

Southampton’s Jan Bednarek (left) and his team-mates took a point
Southampton’s Jan Bednarek (left) and his team-mates took a point

By Sean Taylor, Press Association Sport

Southampton halted their losing run but a goalless draw at Leicester does little for their Premier League survival hopes.

Saints arrived at the King Power Stadium five points adrift of safety with five matches remaining, following four straight league defeats.

It is not exactly mission impossible for Mark Hughes’ team as club’s have survived from the position they are in, or worse, on four occasions in Premier League history.

Whether Southampton can join Bradford (1999/00), West Ham (2006/07), Fulham (2007/08) and Sunderland (2013/14) remains to be seen.

The stalemate also halted back-to-back losses for Leicester, who remain without a home win in the league since January 20.

Foxes boss Claude Puel, against his former club, made five changes following the defeat at Burnley. Captain Wes Morgan and Danny Simpson dropped down to the bench as Aleksander Dragovic and Marc Albrighton were preferred at centre-half and right-back respectively.

Injuries to Kasper Schmeichel and Shinji Okzaki meant opportunities for Ben Hamer and , while midfielder Wilfred Ndidi returned from suspension at the expense of Hamza Choudhury.

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Leicester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho (left) was given a start

Southampton were unchanged from the team that lost to Chelsea, despite an FA Cup semi-final against the same opponents just three days away.

Leicester threatened twice inside the opening quarter hour. Riyad Mahrez, Iheanacho and Jamie Vardy, given the armband in Morgan’s absence, moved the ball quickly on the edge of the penalty area before Mahrez’s low shot was smothered by Alex McCarthy.

Some more lovely one-touch football then saw Iheanacho curl an effort narrowly wide, with McCarthy rooted to the spot, after his initial scuffed shot was blocked.

Southampton’s first opening came shortly afterwards when Dusan Tadic’s half-volley flew just past the post, this time it was Hamer’s turn to just watch and hope.

Much of Leicester’s attacking play under Puel has been based around patient passing football but the long pass over the top remains a useful weapon in their armoury with Vardy and Demarai Gray on the prowl.

On a couple of occasions Mahrez tried to turn the Saints backline but each time the final ball was not quite right.

Southampton should have done better with two chances late in the first half. Cedric Soares missed the target with a volley from Shane Long’s far-post cross before Long failed to make the most of a potential two-on-one opportunity, misplacing his pass to Tadic. Much to the annoyance of manager Hughes on the touchline.

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Claude Puel was going up against his old side

Long left his manager wondering what might have been again after 57 minutes. The striker seized on a loose ball seven yards out but his shot on the turn was blocked at point-blank range by Hamer. It was the best chance of the game so far.

Midway through the second half Leicester got one of those long passes over the top right. Albrighton found Vardy just inside the penalty area and his deft flick on the volley forced McCarthy to tip the ball over the crossbar with his fingertips.

Southampton survived some intense late pressure from the hosts but Leicester were unable to find a breakthrough and Saints held on. Time will tell if a point is enough for them to stay up.

Press Association

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