Southampton vs Leicester match report: Shane Long’s late arrival keeps Saints alive

Southampton 2 Leicester City 0: Substitute boosts Southampton’s unlikely title chase

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The Independent Football

Great expectations in this part of the world were looking something of a burden for 75 minutes yesterday, until Ronald Koeman confirmed his apparent magic touch by introducing Shane Long to score two fine goals and end Leicester City’s defiance.

Victory at home to a team in the bottom three is expected here these days, if not necessarily by the 8-0 margin inflicted upon Sunderland recently, and on a miserably grey day this success proved far more prosaic, but was none the less deserved.

It was an 11th win in 12 competitive games, another clean sheet and meant just five goals have been  conceded by Southampton all season.

The last of those statistics should not have survived the afternoon but when Chris Wood went clear in the last minute, he clipped the ball wide from five yards.

That left Leicester without a shot on target all game, and with one goal on the road all season.

Given such a demoralising statistic, the size of the away support was all the more impressive, but they will have done some hard and probably pessimistic thinking on the long trip home. Although Jamie Vardy was a willing runner as ever and Leonardo Ulloa worked hard, too, there was no penetration and Fraser Forster can rarely have had an easier afternoon’s goalkeeping at this level.

In contrast, Sadio Mane, initially preferred to Long, was a threat with his pace, and he and the excellent Ryan Bertrand used the space down the side of Leicester’s diamond to whip their crosses in towards the lanky Graziano Pelle.

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Leicester have now lost five and drawn one since beating Manchester United

Pelle’s overhead kick early on to send Dusan Tadic away down the right illustrated perfectly the confidence flowing through Koeman’s side.

“Maybe the people expect an easy win because of the position in the table,” the manager said. “We had enough patience today which was necessary.

“The final pass missed some quality but we have players who can make a difference and Shane Long did when he came on.”

Of course there are sterner tests to come after a visit to Aston Villa: the two Manchester clubs and  Arsenal in successive weeks will provide a better test of staying power for the Saints, who were third this time last year before a bad December.  Supporters are naturally loving it and an ironic chant of “The Saints are staying up” was followed by “We’re gonna win the League”, when some tongues may or may not have been in cheek.

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The two goals were Long's first since his £12m move from Hull

With the best defence in the country up against one of the feeblest attacks, the question was whether Southampton would break through and, to be fair to Leicester, there was little sign of it in a dull first half.

The improvement thereafter was considerable. Pelle whipped Tadic’s cross wide, Mane was narrowly offside as he poked in a Bertrand cross and Long had been on for only eight minutes when he struck as Pelle laid the ball off for him.

It was the Irishman’s first League goal of the season. The second took only five more minutes: a perfectly timed run on to Victor Wanyama’s pass and another calm finish.

Line-ups:

Southampton (4-3-3): Forster; Clyne, Fonte, Alderweireld, Bertrand; S Davis (Cork, 40), Wanyama, Schneiderlin (Reed, 90); Tadic, Pelle, Mane (Long, 68). 

Leicester (4-1-2-1-2): Schmeichel; De Laet (Moore, 54), Morgan, Wasilewski, Schlupp; Cambiasso; James, Drinkwater; King (Powell, 76); Vardy, Ulloa (Wood, 71).

Referee: Michael Oliver.

Man of the match: Long (Southampton)

Match rating: 6/10

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