Saturday, 27 August 2011

Conclusions from Southampton

Leicester City3-2Southampton
(HT 3-1)
Vassell 3
Wellens 22
Lambert OG 45+3
Harding 28
Connelly 53

King Power Stadium, attendance: 23,808
BBC Match Report

Home Team: Schmeichel, Pantsil, Mills, Bamba, Konchesky, Wellens (Abe 86), King (Gallagher 75), Fernandes, Danns (79), Nugent (Schlupp 7), Vassell (90+1)

Away Team: Davis, Richardson (Schneiderlin 46), Harding (Fox 79), Fonte, Seaborne (37? 49), Corke, Guly (De Ridder 71), Hammond, Lallana, Lambert, Connelly

  • A great start makes the difference. This was far from the recent drab first halves of late, with Leicester making a great start right out of the box against the Saints. They built well on their early lead with Jeff Schlupp finding Richie Wellens who, for once, took the opportunity to shoot - and score. Southampton were allowed back into the game cheaply when Pantsil was beaten easily and Harding was offered a free header that he could not fail to put away, but this half firmly belonged to a rejuvenated Foxes. That was clear when Sol Bamba's header was deflected into the net by Ricky Lambert on the stroke of half time, the icing on a delicious first half cake.
  • If it ain't broke, don't fix it! Why, after watching his team's best first half in all competitions this season, did Sven Goran Eriksson see fit to alter the rock-steady, balanced 4-4-2 formation to a more attacking 4-3-3? Certainly, the change negatively affected the balance of the Leicester City XI and the confusion almost certainly led to Paul Connelly nabbing a second for the Saints - and another lifeline - early in the second half. From there, the Saints were always in the ascendancy and there was only one team that was ever going to score after the break.
  • For once, a dogged result against a top side. Finally, a result at the King Power Stadium and a superb denial of the Saints' ambitions to claim their record run of consecutive league victories. Now, let's win that Twenty20...

Jeff Schlupp
Power, pace, skill... This young lad has put the fear into the defences of the lower league sides he has so far played against in his career (including the likes of Rotherham who, of course, he bagged that League Cup hat-trick against) and now he's trying the same in the Championship. The injury to Nugent - terrible as that is, he's been a key part of the Foxes team so far this season - could be a blessing in disguise should it offer Eriksson no option but to play this talented young striker in his stead.

Darius Vassell
Vassell's performance was somewhat hampered by his being left to lead the front line as the sole central man. In a 4-4-2 he was quite comfortable but he suffered after the switch to 4-3-3. However, Vassell's work ethic was not similarly impeded and he continued to show the harrying, chasing, running player we have grown to know and, perhaps, love. Vassell is a latter-day Hume or Dickov and that is a high complement to be paid a player in royal blue from a Leicester City fan. Vassell got his goal today, here's hoping he will contribute a few more - as he is very likely to do in a formation that suits him - as the season goes on.

Matt Mills
Matt Mills' tenacity is undiminished. Despite everything being against him, most of all a lack of partnership with his defence, he steadily got in the way of anything he could, doggedly determined to keep his side in front, including his courageous effort to deny Southampton a last-gasp equaliser. Possibly the best performance so far from the former Reading man.

Kasper Schmeichel
Another solid performance from the man who must be the most frustrated footballer in England. Despite his statuesque defence, Schmeichel was able to find something whenever he was challenged to keep his side in front - and secure three vital points for the Foxes.

John Pantsil
Poor defending out wide gave Southampton the chance they badly needed as they were left reeling at 2-0 down. Yes, the Saints were allowed a free header in the box but it was the Ghanaian's defending that presented the crossing opportunity.

Matt Mills and Sol Bamba
This was much more like what Foxes fans will have expected when the £5 million man signed from Reading and more akin to the flashes of brilliance he showed in pre-season (see above). But the Foxes' defensive frailties have not been solved and as the key men at the heart of that defence, questions must be asked of Mills and Bamba. The latter's powerful header led to Ricky Lambert putting into his own net but, unfortunately, he is yet to learn the lessons of last season that you have to play to the whistle. Man for man, Leicester City surely have the best defence in the league. But, for now - and for whatever reason - the Foxes' back line is leaking goals like a sieve with very large holes.

Mr S Mathieson, Cheshire
A bizarre booking that never was - the yellow card was issued in the 36th minute, but Danny Seaborne lived for another day to receive another first yellow card early in the second half. He failed to act on Ricky Lambert's apparent headbutt on Pantsil and missed a foul that would have seen the Foxes awarded a free-kick in the build-up to Southampton's second goal.
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