Phillips the comeback king saves Saints' day

Leicester City 2 Southampton 2

They don't pass around Matthew Le Tissier's old number seven shirt lightly at Southampton, but Kevin Phillips wore it with distinction to rescue his new team from impending defeat.

Leicester were indulging in premature celebration of a victory on their return to the Premiership, having dominated the first half after going two up inside the opening 10 minutes, but everything altered when Phillips linked with James Beattie after the interval.

The manager, Gordon Strachan, had left his £3.25m signing from Sunderland on the bench, but so woeful were Southampton up front, where Anders Svensson laboured, that short of matches or not, Phillips was called in. The difference his control and quickness made was a revelation and his goal with a quarter of an hour left was a stunner.

Receiving from Beattie, Phillips ghosted past Matt Elliott and struck a shot from fully 25 yards, which rocketed high into Ian Walker's net for a goal he may not better all season. Four minutes later Southampton, comeback kings of the Premiership, were level. Phillips was too slick on the turn for John Curtis and when his effort came back off an upright Beattie reacted smartly to drive it home left- footed.

So is Phillips a bargain? "Only time will tell," said Strachan. "But I wanted somebody of stature to help the other players. And for him to move home and to adjust to our wage structure showed he just wants to be a footballer."

If Phillips' genius silenced the sell-out crowd in the second half, the opening half-hour was captured by Les Ferdinand, one of Leicester manager Micky Adams' collection of summer freebie signings. He might be 36 now, but Ferdinand unhinged Southampton with his enthusiasm and bravery, though he was fortunate to win a second-minute penalty which left most unbiased watchers agape.

Ferdinand and Michael Svensson chased a high, bouncing ball on the edge of the box and when Ferdinand jumped higher than the Southampton defender he seemed to lose balance in mid-air. Svensson's contact was minimal, but the referee, Mike Riley, considered it merited a spot kick, which Paul Dickov put away assuredly to the left of Paul Jones, the Welsh international deputising for the injured Antti Niemi.

In the ninth minute Leicester struck again, and this time it was a goal which could have won an enterprise award. Walker took a free kick deep in his own half, overhitting the ball, which Claus Lundekvam thought was going out of play. James Scowcroft thought otherwise, chased it to the line and hooked back a cross. When Lundekvam still hesitated, Ferdinand came barrelling in to head in off the bar and Jones' back.

The collision was a frightening one. Ferdinand recovered after lengthy treatment - though he failed to reappear after half time - but Lundekvam was taken off on a stretcher and replaced by Danny Higginbotham. There could have been a third if Dickov had not scuffed his shot when the ball bounced into his path off Scowcroft's body.

If Ferdinand and the excellent Ben Thatcher were indications of Adams' shrewd business sense, Keith Gillespie was a dire disappointment on the right wing for Leicester. He might as well have spent the afternoon in the betting shop, before being substituted late on.

Leicester could still have won, Scowcroft hitting the bar from a corner in injury time, but Adams was content. "It is a point on the board and my two centre-forwards have scored," he said.

Leicester City 2
Dickov pen 5, Ferdinand 10

Southampton 2
Phillips 76, Beattie 80

Half-time: 2-0 Attendance: 31,621

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