The patience of Leicester City fans at the King Power Stadium was tested once again as Claude Puel’s men succumbed to a second consecutive home defeat at the hands of Premier League strugglers Southampton.
After the home loss to Cardiff City and the terrible cup shock at Newport County, Puel had called for a response from his players but he didn’t get the desired reaction as they contributed significantly to their own downfall against a Southampton side that started the day in the bottom three and played for half the game with ten men after Yan Valery was sent off.
An early penalty from James Ward-Prowse and Shane Long’s assisted strike just before the break, just after Valery had seen red, left a City side that has struggled to create chances against determined, packed defences simply too much to do.
City have been spending the week licking their wounds after the embarrassment of their FA Cup defeat at League Two Newport County.
After a productive Christmas, which saw them win three out of four Premier League games to move seventh in the table and ease the external pressure growing on Puel, all that good work seemed to be undone at Rodney Parade as Puel came under even more criticism for making seven changes to his starting line-up to face the Welshmen.
That decision backfired spectacularly as City were dumped out of a competition many of the supporters coveted above all else and Puel came out fighting in his pre-match press conference after a week of criticism.
Puel called for a reality check, stating that what his side had achieved so far this season to be in seventh, considering the traumas around the club, was exceptional. He fiercely defended his record for keeping the same side for consecutive games only twice in the past year and mocked suggestions his public image was a problem.
He also admitted the speculation around his position at the club and the negativity amongst a section of the fans and media had been frustrating, but vowed to continue with his plan to develop a young side that could compete in years to come, given time and patience.
He had recalled Harvey Barnes from his loan from West Bromwich Albion to emphasise his vision for developing young players, but the England under-21 international had to be content with a place on the bench as Puel made eight changes from the side that lost at Newport.
Kasper Schmeichel returned in goal while full-backs Ben Chilwell and Ricard Pereira were restored, along with central defender Harry Maguire and central midfielders Papy Mendy and Wilfred Ndidi.
It was in the final third that City were found wanting at Newport so it was no surprise to see top scorer Jamie Vardy back in the starting line-up with support from James Maddison and Marc Albrighton, while Puel named an attacking bench.
The last three meetings in all competitions at the King Power Stadium between the two sides had ended goalless, but Puel knew his side had to possess more of a cutting edge if his critics were to be silenced.
If Puel was in fighting mood at his press conference it hadn’t transferred to his players who produced a poor first half display, epitomised by Mendy’s display.
The Frenchman gave away the penalty with a senseless challenge on Long that gave James Ward-Prowse the opportunity to score from the penalty spot after just ten minutes and then in first half added time his poor backpass let in Long again and his effort, which may have been going wide until Schmeichel got a hand to it, nestled into the net to give the Saints a healthy advantage at the break.
City had been really poor, lacking commitment, energy and inspiration in the first half. It was a display that would only heap more pressure in Puel as City’s home form has been average at best this season.
It took until the 33rd minute for City to actually have an effort on goal, with Maguire heading wide from Chilwell’s cross, but it wasn’t until just before that when Chilwell went nose-to-nose with Yan Valery that City had any spark about them.
Both were booked for the exchange and Valery could think himself lucky he wasn’t already on a booking for a dive under Chilwell’s challenge inside the City penalty box earlier.
The closest City came to a goal was a Wes Morgan effort which was cleared off the line by Jan Badarnek and when Valery was shown his second yellow for a cynical pull-back on Albrighton it looked like some light at the end of the tunnel for Puel until a long kick from Saints keeper Alex McCarthy wasn’t dealt with by Ricardo and Mendy, on the cover, made a hash of mopping up.
City could have no complaints as they contributed significantly to their own downfall in both goals as the first also came from a Schmeichel kick which the Saints easily picked off in the build-up.
Not surprisingly, Mendy was substituted at half time as Puel brought on Barnes, along with Demarai Gray who replaced Albrighton.
It worked as City were a lot more positive and pulled a goal back in the 58th minute when Ricardo got to the byline and pulled the ball back for Ndidi, who bundled the ball home. It wasn’t a clean finish but it was exactly what City needed.
Barnes did have one chance to be the returning hero towards the end as City laid siege to the Saints goal, but it was blocked as Puel’s men were again left frustrated at home.
But not as frustrated as the Blue Army, who booed at the final whistle to express their feelings as City continue to struggle against the more average sides on home soil.
The post Leicester Suffers Defeat At Home As 10-Man Southampton Win appeared first on Independent Newspapers Nigeria.
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Author: Agency Report