Football: Leicester leave O'Neill in danger of imminent explosion

Southampton 2 Leicester City 1
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The Independent Online
Nick Harris

Southampton 2

Leicester City 1

Southampton eased the imminent threat of dropping back into the relegation zone on Saturday, while Leicester City could only increase the threat of a coronary for their manager.

After the Saints took a second-minute lead through Matt Le Tissier, the visitors had the greater possession and better chances. Emile Heskey, slightly unsettled after a three-match suspension, could have scored twice in the first half, but was denied by a fine Paul Jones save and later by a piece of awry shooting. In the second half, he sent a delicate chip over Jones only to see it hit the post and trickle wide.

Southampton increased their lead nine minutes after the break, when a Le Tissier free-kick was met by Francis Benali, who after 11 years and nearly 300 games, headed his first goal for his club. Egil Ostenstad would have scored Saints' third eight minutes from the end had he not been bought down by Kasey Keller, for which the American was fortunate only to be shown a yellow card.

Two minutes later, Robbie Savage scored from 25 yards to give Leicester some hope, but despite their sterling efforts in the last period of the game, especially by Neil Lennon, Savage and Matt Elliott, they could not gain parity. Martin O'Neill's team have great scoring potential, and will no doubt realise that potential when Heskey has resettled, but on Saturday they only appeared to be 100 per cent committed after conceding two goals, despite frantic encouragement from the bench.

Saints' manager, Dave Jones, can take satisfaction from a performance that was only memorable for Benali's goal, but knows there is still much work to do. Encouraging hard work and consistency from Kevin Davies will be one aim, along with helping Le Tissier overcome his personal problems and regain his form.

The Leicester manager will also want his talisman, the 19-year-old Heskey, to start performing to his potential soon, but conceded that that might put him under pressure. "He's been out for a long time," O'Neill said. "He's got a lot on his shoulders - to carry us through."

For the sake of the manager's health, someone needs to carry Leicester to some form soon, before O'Neill (who currently speaks in the clipped and eerily measured tones of a man about to explode) needs to be carried to the nearest hospital.

Goals: Le Tissier (1-0) 2; Benali (2-0) 54; Savage (2-1) 84.

Southampton (4-4-2): Jones; Benali, Lundekvam, Monkou, Dodd; Oakley (Williams, 71), Richardson (Hughes, 80), Palmer, Le Tissier (Ostenstad, 80); Davies, Hirst. Substitutes not used: Flahavan (gk), Robinson.

Leicester City (3-5-2): Keller; Walsh, Elliott, Prior (Claridge, 81); Guppy, Izzet, Lennon, Savage, Kamark; Fenton (Wilson, 62), Heskey. Substitutes not used: Arphexad (gk), Watts, Parker.

Referee: S Lodge (Barnsley).

Bookings: Southampton: Ostenstad. Leicester: Keller.

Man of the match: Lennon.

Attendance: 15,121.