Football: Le Tissier shows hidden qualities

Southampton 2 Leicester City 2
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The Independent Online
If the past week's club versus country dispute over the fitness of Matt Le Tissier has proved anything it is that, although it may not always be obvious from body language, the player does in fact care; he cares about his performance and he cares about Southampton.

That is why he will tell the England coach, Glenn Hoddle, this morning that he is not fit enough to give of his best for his country in next Saturday's friendly against Mexico at Wembley, but will continue to insist that he can still have some bearing on Southampton's Premiership fate.

Anyone who doubted his commitment should have been at The Dell on Saturday to see him last 90 minutes despite the discomfort of foot and groin injuries in the cause of Southampton and still manage to contribute something. In fact, he was invariably the inspiration behind Southampton's better moments, be it a cheeky back-heel which wrong-footed Leicester shortly before the first goal or his corner which led to the second.

He was also back to clear a Steve Claridge shot off the line, although it still ended up in the back of the net following a fortuitous deflection off Emile Heskey . An uncommitted sort probably would not have kicked the goal post in anger as Le Tissier then did. It may be hard to see him as a never-say-die type but, according to him, he has "immense self-belief" and he is banking on Saints beating the drop.

Reluctant as one is to dampen such faith, few who saw Southampton twice surrender the initiative in this untidy match, albeit unluckily, would give them much chance. Their defence is prone to error or misfortune, call it what you will, and they do not have the fire power to compensate. At least their three remaining home games are against sides in the bottom half of the table, not that West Ham or Coventry are in any position to roll over.

As for Leicester, this was a comforting point to take with them into their well-earned two-week respite before the Coca-Cola Cup final against Middlesbrough, although their manager, Martin O'Neill, still believes they are three points short of absolute safety.

Wembley may be the furthest thing now from Le Tissier's thoughts but it was interesting to hear his own analysis of his last visit there, against Italy last month. "When I look back I was disappointed on the night not to have scored from a couple of chances," he said. "But I didn't realise I was actually that bad until I read the papers - but what do I know, I only play the game."

Goals: Ostenstad (31) 1-0; Heskey (46) 1-1; Van Gobbel (49); 2- 1; Claridge (71).

Southampton (3-5-1-1): Taylor; Van Gobbel, Neilson, Dryden; Slater, Magilton, Oakley, Berkovitch (Evans, 63), Charlton; Le Tissier; Ostenstad (Basham, 75). Substitutes not used: Benali, Beasant (gk).

Leicester City (4-4-2): Poole; Grayson, Walsh, Elliott, Kamark (Watts, 78); Izzet, Parker (Lawrence, 82), Lennon, Guppy; Claridge, Heskey. Substitutes not used: Whitlow, Robins, Andrews (gk).

Referee: K Burge (Tonypandy). Bookings: Southampton: Oakley, Ostenstad. Leicester: Walsh.

Man of the match: Ostenstad. Attendance: 15,044.

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