Southampton 1:4 Leicester City
A fine performance in wintry conditions ensured a 4-1 win for City at St Marys on Wednesday evening…
Claude Puel made three changes to his side on his return to Southampton, with Okazaki, King and Fuchs in for Gray, Iborra and Albrighton.
If it seemed to be a risky strategy to change a winning side, any concerns were dispelled in the 10th minute when City took the lead.
In similar fashion to his goal at Newcastle, Mahrez ran across the field before clipping a precise 20 yarder beyond the reach of Forster and just inside the right hand post.
After an even start City were well on top once they had taken the lead, making light of the horrible conditions. In the 20th minute Vardy and Okazaki linked well, the latter producing a long range shot that had to be tipped round the post by Forster at full stretch.
With Okazaki and Vardy again combining, Chilwell was set up for a shot that was blocked as far as Okazaki, whose shot was cleared off the line by Lemina.
The Saints first chance came on the half-hour when Austin hit a well struck shot from the edge of the area, but it was too close to Schmeichel, who parried it over the bar.
From the resulting corner City broke upfield, Mahrez crossed from the left and Vardy tested Forster with a near post effort, but the rebound was cleared by Yoshida as Okazaki closed in on the loose ball.
In the 32nd minute the scoreline better reflected the game as City doubled their lead. A Mahrez corner from the right went long to Fuchs, lurking on the edge of the area. His fierce shot pinballed off defender and goalkeeper, falling for Okazaki to stab home from five yards.
Six minutes later City went further ahead. A Mahrez free kick into the area was chested down by Maguire, who turned neatly before sending a low shot across the goalmouth.
No one got a touch to it and King was left with a simple tap-in at the far post, as loud boos began to ring around St Marys.
City continued to press forward in the second half and, after a foul on Okazaki, Mahrez lined up a 25 yard free-kick that Forster did well to tip away from the bottom right hand corner.
But then, on the hour, Southampton enjoyed their best spell of the game. A Bertrand free-kick was tipped over by Schmeichel, but from the resulting corner Yoshida directed a header across goal, the ball evading a melee of blue and red shirts in the goalmouth before finding the net.
The home fans finally had something to cheer and Saints went close to pulling another goal back when they hit City on the break and Schmeichel pulled off a fine block to deny Austin from point blank range.
But any hint of a Southampton revival was snuffed out when City got a fourth in the 69th minute. A wayward crossfield pass from Cedric picked out Mahrez, who fed Vardy down the right. He delivered a superb cross round his marker and the irrepressible Okazaki met it with a fine near post finish.
The result was now beyond doubt, and as Southampton fans flooded through the exits, Puel withrdew Vardy and Mahrez from the fray, bringing on Albrighton and Gray.
The game petered out with the remaining Saints fans wondering how Puel’s Leicester had scored more goals in this game than Puel’s Southampton did in their last seven home games.
Puel wasn’t crowing about his triumphant return to the club that sacked him: “My team is the most important thing. I am proud of my players because we gave a fantastic game. If we have the ability to maintain the good results with changes it will be good for the future. It is still the first part of the season and the Premier League is difficult every week. All is not perfect, we still need to correct things and make progress.”
Southampton: Forster, Soares, van Dijk, Yoshida, Bertrand, Romeu (Gabbiadini 45), Lemina, Tadic (Ward-Prowse 83), Davis, Boufal (Redmond 62), Austin.
Substitutes: Stephens, Long, McCarthy, Højbjerg.
Leicester: Schmeichel, Simpson, Maguire, Morgan, Fuchs, Ndidi, King, Mahrez (Albrighton 72), Okazaki, Chilwell (Ulloa 83), Vardy (Gray 72).
Substitutes: Hamer, Dragovic, Amartey, Iborra.
Referee: C Kavanagh. Attendance: 27,714.
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