Southampton 2 Leicester City 0: Burley hails Pele's brilliance

Burley buoyant as Southampton consolidate play-off position
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The Independent Football

This is the perfect time of year for Southampton to celebrate the advent of a goalscorer from Belem, a Lisbon suburb founded by Crusaders returning from the Church of the Nativity.

Signed as a defender, Pele has blossomed since shifting into midfield and, in his 20th League appearance, got his first goal for the club to set them on their way to a comprehensive victory. Torrential rain caused the kick-off to be delayed for 45 minutes, but for home fans it was worth the wait.

He had shown few previous signs of emulating his namesake but, with nine minutes gone, he rose to meet Alexander Ostlund's cross with a beautifully clean header, directing the ball beyond the dive of Paul Henderson.

"Pele's been outstanding since he's been in midfield," the Southampton manager, George Burley, said. "He's got a lot of ability - strength and pace, he's good in the air, and it was a good goal."

The opening was initially created by the diligence of Nathan Dyer, who, splashing through the surface water with more glee than anybody since Anita Ekberg in La Dolce Vita, was excellent until his afternoon was curtailed by a lunge from Danny Tiatto. He is still awaiting confirmation, but the early indications were that Dyer has fractured an ankle.

It made little difference to Southampton's dominance yesterday, though, and it was his replacement, David Prutton who got the second in a moment of personal redemption. Injured again at Leicester last January, he returned for a single game against them in April before breaking down again, and after an operation on a troublesome ankle, had played just once this season.

Eight minutes into the second half, though, he stormed in at the back post to meet Bradley Wright-Phillips's fine delivery. His initial header was saved by Henderson, but this time the luck was with him, and the ball cannoned back into his shins and over the line.

Unfortunate for the keeper, perhaps, particularly given he made three other top-class saves, but Leicester could hardly complain about the result.

In an ordinary game in difficult conditions they were distinctly second best, and there was little to substantiate Gareth Williams's midweek claim that they are well placed to make a run for the play-offs. If they are, they are the darkest of dark horses.

"There are no excuses from our point of view," said the Leicester manager, Rob Kelly. "That was an untypical performance from our point of view. I don't think it was down to a lack of effort; we just never got going."

To his credit, he refused to use the delay as an excuse, but given the lethargy of the performance, it is hard not to believe that if affected Leicester's focus.

"The only good thing is that after a performance like that you want to put things right as quickly as possible," Kelly went on. "And we've got another game against Sunderland in 48 hours."

Burley admitted Southampton "failed to hit the heights", but they still end the year in a healthy fourth place and lie just three points off an automatic promotion spot.