08/11/2014: Saints 2-0 Leicester
Saints maintained their place in the top two with a hard fought win over Leicester. The home side had difficulties in breaking the Foxes down for over an hour, but eventually found a way through.
Leicester lined-up in a diamond formation, making it very difficult for Saints to play their way through the middle of the pitch. The visitors pressed from the front and were possibly slightly sharper on the ball in the early going. Saints took a while to adapt to the conditions.
Leicester were well organised throughout the first half, and outnumbered Saints when the hosts approached goal. Nathaniel Clyne had the first major chance, a low drive from outside the area, which was easily gathered by Kasper Schmeichel. At the other end Wes Morgan headed over from a corner. Saints came into the game a bit more after the 30 minute mark, utilising the full-backs Clyne and Ryan Bertrand, who got forward to good effect. The final ball was still lacking, however. Sadio Mane curled over the bar from a difficult angle on 35. Saints dominated possession towards the end of the first half, without really doing a lot with it.
Mane had a goal disallowed for offside not long after the break. Leicester occasionally threatened on the break, but Saints were in the ascendancy for the most part. The home side had a succession of corners midway through the half. Despite some clever movement in the penalty area, Saints couldn't find a way past Schmeichel from the aforementioned set pieces. Morgan Schneiderlin had his shot spectacularly blocked.
For much of the second half it felt as if a goal would never come. Things changed following the introduction of Shane Long, however. The Irishman instantly sparked life into Saints' front line after replacing Mane on 68. It took him just seven minutes to find the net. Graziano Pelle held the ball up in the penalty area with his back to goal before laying it off to Long. The striker calmly placed the ball into the bottom corner of the net for 1-0.
Leicester lost their discipline slightly after that goal, with Saints finding space easier to come by in the final third. The game was effectively wrapped up on 80 minutes. Long sprung the offside trap, latching on to Victor Wanyama's ball over the top, before sending Schmeichel the wrong way. Leicester substitute Chris Wood was presented with a similar opening late in the game, but somehow contrived to hit his shot wide. Saints had a couple more chances on the counter, with Long shooting into the side netting in stoppage time.
Certainly not the prettiest of games, but another important result. Leicester did well to limit Saints, and for a while it looked as if Koeman's men might not break them down. It was Long who stepped up to the plate on this occasion. The former West Brom man has impressed throughout his Saints tenure, but found that finishing touch that has been lacking in previous games. It's good to know Saints have another worthy attacking option. That dreaded run of fixtures is nearly upon us, while Schneiderlin and Pelle are both a booking away from suspension. Things could get tricky soon, but Saints have built up such a gap over some of their rivals that even if they do endure an awful December they won't be out of European contention in the New Year like they were last season.
Forster: 6. One ridiculous clearance in the first minute of the game. Claimed a couple of deep crosses, but otherwise another quiet one
Clyne: 7. Surely deserves his England chance this time after yet another very good showing. Heavily involved going forward and alert at the back
Fonte: 6. A couple of minor errors at the start and end of the game, but looked comfortable for the most part
Alderweireld: 7. Calmly won the ball back in the few duels he was involved in. Another assured display
Bertrand: 7. Like Clyne, offered an attacking outlet for Saints by stretching the play down the flank with some aggressive runs
Schneiderlin: 7. Stupid booking aside, another good performance from the birthday boy
Wanyama: 8. Found space for himself in the middle of the park with some clever decision making and also used the ball pretty well
Davis: 5. Some good movement, but a bit wasteful at times before his early withdrawal
Tadic: 6. Ineffective for large periods. Did liven up slightly towards the end of the game, but far from his best showing
Mane: 6. Not at the level of his last home start, but bright in spells. Took on Leicester with his pace a couple of times before coming off with a knock
Pelle: 7. Impressive hold-up work and some incisive play in and around the box at times
Cork: 7. Long ball to Pelle led to the first goal. Another solid outing
Long: 7. Just what Saints needed. Energised the team and cool in front of goal
Reed: Made a good tackle and put himself about in the brief period he was on the pitch
Saints - Long (75, 80)
Attendance: 31,297 (2,667 Leicester fans)
Referee: Michael Oliver
Saints: Forster, Clyne, Fonte, Alderweireld, Bertrand, Schneiderlin (Reed 90), Wanyama, S Davis (Cork 39), Tadic, Mane (Long 68), Pelle
Subs not used: K Davis, Gardos, Yoshida, Mayuka
Leicester: Schmeichel, De Laet (Moore 54) , Morgan, Wasilewski, Schlupp, Cambiasso, James, Drinkwater, King (Powell 76), Vardy, Ulloa (Wood 71)
Subs not used: Smith, Konchesky, Mahrez, Nugent