With the first international break of the season now over, it was a return to Championship action for both Southampton and Leicester City at St. Mary’s on Friday evening. Both sides looked to get back on track, with Russell Martin’s Saints having been humiliated on the road at Sunderland last time out, and Enzo Maresca’s Foxes narrowly losing at home to Hull City.
SOU: Bazunu; Walker-Peters, Harwood-Bellis, Charles, Manning; Downes, Smallbone, A. Armstrong; Edozie, Fraser, Adams
LEI: Hermansen; Justin, Vestergaard, Doyle, Ricardo; Ndidi, Winks, Dewsbury-Hall; McAteer, Mavididi, Vardy
With the summer now reaching its end, it was a rather mild evening on the South Coast, but the game quickly heated up as Leicester made the perfect start with not even sixty seconds gone. Stephy Mavididi made a run down the left hand side following Kyle Walker-Peters’ misplacement of possession, and whipped the ball into the box – with Foxes stalwart Jamie Vardy waiting to smash past Bazunu into the bottom corner.
The Foxes continued to mount the early pressure, as a low effort by Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall whistled just wide of the far post, and Kasey McAteer’s cross came close to nestling in the top corner.
Southampton’s first clear-cut chance of the game arrived when Che Adams forced Mads Hermansen into action as his curling shot was pushed away by the Danish international for a corner, only for nothing to come from it.
Harry Winks then gave the ball away on the edge of the Leicester box and Adams would pounce on the ball again, but somehow, instead of scoring, the Scotland striker saw his chipped effort cleared at the last minute by Callum Doyle.
With 18 minutes gone, Enzo Maresca’s side doubled their advantage. Dewsbury-Hall dispossessed Kyle Walker-Peters and slotted the ball through to Kasey McAteer, who kept his composure and finished calmly past Bazunu to set off more discontent amongst the home faithful.
Just eight minutes later, the Saints found a way back into the game. Foxes centre back Callum Doyle lost the ball again, and this time he was punished for doing so, as Che Adams laid the ball off to Sam Edozie, who chipped it calmly over Hermansen.
Leicester almost found the perfect reply to conceding moments later as Wilfried Ndidi’s powerful shot was kept out by Gavin Bazunu in the Saints goal. Mavididi also forced another good save out of the former Manchester City stopper just before half-time.
Having dominated the game since Southampton’s goal, Leicester restored their two-goal lead right on the stroke of half-time. Stephy Mavididi found himself on the edge of the Saints box and slipped the ball through to Wilfried Ndidi, who controlled the ball wonderfully with his feet and slotted the ball past Bazunu.
The second half had started on a quieter note in terms of chances, with the only notable effort coming from Southampton substitute Carlos Alcaraz, who curled a free kick just wide of Mads Hermansen’s near post. A few moments later, Adam Armstrong sent his close range effort well over the bar.
Stephy Mavididi could have killed the game off for Leicester with just over an hour gone, but his chipped effort somehow floated just wide of the far corner.
Newcastle loanee Ryan Fraser could have reduced Leicester’s two-goal deficit again just moments after, but his shot from close range stung the palms of Hermansen and the Danish stopper cleared well.
Enzo Maresca would have wanted his team to finish this game off following the Saints pressure, and Leicester did just that with 22 minutes to go. Saints substitute Kamaldeen Sulemana gave the ball away inside the Leicester half and Wilfried Ndidi got away on the counter attack. Ndidi then found Stephy Mavididi, who raced away from the retreating Southampton defence and finished coolly past Bazunu to seal the victory for his side.
With two minutes of added time to go, substitute Kelechi Iheanacho had a chance to inflict more damage on the home side, but his effort floated just over the bar and, in the end, it didn’t dampen what was a return to winning ways for the Foxes.
However, it got even worse for Southampton when Sulemana was sent off late on for a rash challenge on James Justin, with referee Bobby Madley having no choice but to give the Ghanaian his marching orders.
In a game which was billed as a heavy-hitter between two sides relegated from the Premier League last season, it was Leicester City who proved the more comprehensive and complete side, inflicting a second successive defeat on an out-of-sorts Southampton outfit.
Both sides are in midweek action next time out, as Southampton host Ipswich Town on Tuesday before Leicester City travel to Norwich City.