Football: Benali's goal surprise
Sunday 14 December 1997
LeTissier 2, Benali 54
Leicester City 1
Southampton at last found the win to pull them out of the tailspin that was in danger of becoming fatal after four successive defeats, although their victims, Leicester, can complain with good cause that the least their efforts deserved was a point.
Saints had little time to ponder over the consequences of their recent form as, within two minutes, they had taken the lead when Matt Le Tissier drove home the rebound of a David Hirst shot to which Kasey Keller could only get a foot.
Leicester recovered to take a grip of the game and threaten Paul Jones's goal. Emile Heskey, returning after suspension, should have equalised in the 30th minute after Pontus Kamark's clever pass left him with only the goalkeeper to beat, but Jones spread himself to make the first of several splendid saves.
The half ended with Steve Walsh coming forward to meet Mustafa Izzet's corner with a header which flew inches wide, although Saints came close to a second when Le Tissier forced a sequence of good saves from Keller.
The game's turning point came in the 54th minute when Le Tissier's curling free-kick found Francis Benali lurking just inside the visitors' penalty box and his perfectly struck header flew into the net for his first ever goal for Southampton.
A flurry of substitutions enlivened the last 10 minutes which saw Keller fortunate only to be shown a yellow card after he had brought down Egil Ostenstad - Le Tissier's replacement - just outside the penalty box.
Then, six minutes from time, Savage set the cat among the pigeons with a 25-yard volley that flew past a surprised Jones. The Dell now rang with the desperate whistling of nervous Saints fans as Leicester surged forward, but they could not find an equaliser before the referee blew up to release the tension.
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