Football:Football:Saints pay for sins

Leicester City 2 Heskey 61, Walsh 63 Southampton 0 Half-time: 0-0 Attendance:18,423
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The Independent Online
SOUTHAMPTON'S minor resurgence with their away victory over Blackburn two weeks ago looks to be well and truly over and they are now bottom of the Premiership again. For an hour here they looked as if they could match a Leicester side made threadbare through injury, until their old defensive frailties resurfaced. They could never recover after giving away two soft goals in two suicidal second-half minutes.

For the first the Saint's defence was guilty of an error of schoolboy proportions. Referee Dermot Gallagher, who was praised by both managers for his free-flowing approach to the game, allowed an advantage after a Mark Hughes foul, but the Southampton back-four stood waiting for the whistle allowing Emile Heskey to skip past them and stab home Theo Zagorakis' through-ball from six yards. For the second, the goalkeeper Paul Jones rose far too late to prevent Steve Walsh from heading in Steve Guppy's cross at the far post.

The Southampton manager Dave Jones could find no excuses for these errors: "Up to that point we defended well," he said, "but then we just switched off. We kept giving the ball back to them. We allowed them too many free- kicks at the edge of the box and we keep giving silly goals away."

In a drab first half neither side looked to have enough genuine invention to unlock the respective defences, although Leicester had the bulk of the possession and sporadic spark from their midfield trio of Neil Lennon, Muzzy Izzet and Zagorakis. But the final ball too often went astray and their manager Martin O'Neill readily acknowledged that they lacked an incisive thrust. "In the first half we played in front of them and didn't penetrate," he said. "But in the second half we did just enough to win the game."

But if Leicester's striking duo of Heskey and Matt Elliott, a central defender turned centreforward, were suffering from a lack of service, Southampton's Egil Ostenstad and Matt Le Tissier were fairing even worse.

Ostenstad has the unenviable record of being caught off-side more than any other player in the Premiership, and on one of the few occasions he found the ball at his feet, he put it in the net, only to see the linesman's flag against him for the 37th time this season. It was Le Tissier though who capped a dismal afternoon for Southampton, blazing an eight-yard shot high over with only Kasey Keller to beat to deny Saints even the most tenuous of lifelines.

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