Post by Football News on Dec 13, 2017 21:49:44 GMT
Southampton 1 - 4 Leicester
Riyad Mahrez sparkles as Leicester cruise to win at Southampton
Home team scorers Maya Yoshida 61
Away team scorers Riyad Mahrez 11 Shinji Okazaki 32 Andy King 38 Shinji Okazaki 69
This time Southampton fans must have been grateful for Claude Puel’s restraint. The Frenchman would have been entitled to cackle heartily when the final whistle confirmed this win but he decided against eschewing good manners. His team had already made his point in highly satisfying fashion, putting on a masterclass in clever and sharp attacking at the expense of the club who sacked him six months ago partly on the grounds his style was boring.
Shinji Okazaki scored twice while Riyad Mahrez and Andy King struck one each, rendering Maya Yoshida’s goal for the home side academic.
Rain hurtled down but there was no outpouring of scorn for the returning Frenchman, who was instead received cordially in the programme notes by the man who replaced him, Mauricio Pellegrino, and with silent or perhaps chastened civility by the Southampton supporters who had hollered for him to be ousted at the end of last season.
Those fans had protested that Puel’s style of play was too dull to bear even though he led them to an eighth place finish in the Premier League and their first major final for 14 years. But they could not boast before kickoff of any improvement under Pellegrino, whose team has averaged fewer goals per game this campaign than they did under Puel.
Meanwhile, Leicester fans who were underwhelmed by Puel’s appointment are pleased to admit they were misled by their south-coast counterparts, as their team came into this game on the back of three wins in a row and are looking down on Southampton from the top half of the table.
Southampton started as if determined to prove their attacking capability and they made a convincing case for about two minutes. A couple of corners by James Ward-Prowse put the visitors in early difficulty, with Yoshida almost forcing the ball over the line from one of them, only for his bundled effort to be cleared at the near post.
But Leicester kept the hosts at arm’s length and looked dangerous on the counterattack even before Mahrez opened the scoring. The Algeria international slipped as he collected the ball midway inside the home half but got up in time to retain it and then benefited from a slip by Mario Lemina before taking a few more strides and driving a shot into the bottom corner from 25 yards.
That was Mahrez’s fourth goal since the appointment of Puel but his form was not confined to goalscoring, as he teased his opponents here with beguiling runs and cunning passes. He was not Southampton’s only tormentor. Soon after Mahrez’s goal Okazaki attempted a cover version but Southampton’s goalkeeper was back on song. Fraser Forster caught a long-range effort by Wilfried Ndidi moments later. Southampton’s early vim had withered away.
Lemina’s most important first-half intervention was to whack a shot by Okazaki off the line in the 22nd minute. Not until the half-hour did Southampton’s lone striker, Charlie Austin, get a sniff of a chance but Kasper Schmeichel batted his shot from the edge of the area out for a corner. From that Leicester raced down the other end and almost scored, Forster denying Jamie Vardy after a pass by Mahrez.
This corner did lead to a goal. Mahrez pulled the set piece to the edge of the box, where Christian Fuchs met it with a thumping volley. Forster parried but Okazaki poked in the rebound. “Boring, boring Leicester,” chanted the away fans, followed by the mocking inquiry “are you glad you sacked Puel?”
Moments later those fans were celebrating another goal as the home defence folded in the face of a routine free-kick lofted into the box by Mahrez. Harry Maguire was allowed to take it down on his chest and whack the ball across the face of goal, where King was free to tap in from five yards. That triggered boos from Southampton fans, which this time must have been music to Puel’s ears.
Pellegrino, knowing he had to do something to save face and perhaps also his job, switched to a two-pronged attack for the second half, bringing on Manolo Gabbiadini. However, Leicester continued to tear through their hosts.
Just as Southampton’s humiliation was at risk of deepening, they blathered a retort when Yoshida met a corner by Ryan Bertrand on the hour with a fine header, to which Dusan Tadic tried to get a nick as it crossed the line. Suddenly Southampton were buoyant again and nearly cut the deficit further when Austin slid in to get on the end of a cross by Bertrand but Schmeichel saved. Leicester settled the argument, witlessly prompted by their hosts. Mahrez accepted a sloppy pass from an opponent and then released Vardy, who crossed from the right. Okazaki darted in front of Virgil van Dijk and flicked it into the net