Leicester’s Champions League bid suffers dent as they draw to Southampton, who played with ten men for 80 minutes due to Jannik Vestergaard red card
Leicester missed the chance to really consolidate their place in the Premier League top four as they could only manage a 1-1 draw at ten-man Southampton.
Everything went right for the Foxes in this fixture last season as they hit NINE at St Mary’s and it looked like the match was going to take a similar path when Jannik Vestergaard was sent off in the tenth minute for catching Jamie Vardy when he was through on goal.
And Saints took a shock lead on the hour as James Ward-Prowse slotted home a penalty after Leicester’s man of the moment Kelechi Iheanoacho handled the ball inside the box.
Brendan Rodgers’ men would get something out of the game as the manager’s fellow countryman Jonny Evans got the equaliser.
The centre-back ghosted between two Southampton defenders and nodded Iheanacho’s inviting cross from the right past Alex McCarthy.
Leicester are eight points clear of fifth-placed West Ham, but have played one more match than the Hammers. And with the Foxes’ tough fixture schedule at the end of the season the race for the Champions League spots could well go to the wire.
Friday evening’s game was the first Premier League fixture since the sporting world began a four-day social media boycott in protest at ongoing abuse.
There was plenty to merit online engagement inside an action-packed opening 10 minutes in which Southampton had a goal disallowed, wasted a golden chance, and were reduced to 10 men.
Saints right-back Kyle Walker-Peters was denied by an offside flag after confidently finishing past Kasper Schmeichel in just the second minute, before the unmarked Nathan Tella scuffed a tame effort at the Leicester goalkeeper having been picked out by Che Adams.
Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl was visibly frustrated by Tella’s profligacy and soon had further reason for irritation as momentum swung the way of the visitors.
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Slack defending from Vestergaard allowed Vardy a clear sight of goal and, in desperation to regain possession on the edge of his own penalty area, the Southampton defender lunged at the ball before catching his opponent with his studs on the follow through.
The Premier League later confirmed the red card was for the denial of a goal-scoring opportunity rather than dangerous play and, after Vardy received lengthy treatment on the field, James Maddison curled the resultant free-kick narrowly wide.
Southampton had Ryan Bertrand dismissed in the 12th minute of their embarrassing capitulation in last season’s corresponding fixture and were facing another uphill task.
They showed some resolve as Nathan Redmond fizzed a shot at Schmeichel minutes later, while Youri Tielemans later tested Saints goalkeeper Alex McCarthy with City’s best opening of a goalless first half.
Foxes manager Rodgers had initially stuck with the team which beat Crystal Palace on Monday but, with his side struggling to make the most of their man advantage, introduced forward Ayoze Perez in place of defender Wesley Fofana at the start of the second half.
The additional firepower did not initially result in a greater attacking threat and the visitors fell behind just after the hour mark.
Ward-Prowse confidently dispatched the ball into the bottom-left corner from the spot after his clever free-kick led to Kelechi Iheanacho blocking Stuart Armstrong’s powerful effort with an outstretched arm.
Falling behind kicked Leicester into life and they soon levelled.
Iheanacho made amends for his earlier error by delivering an inviting inswinging cross from the left, allowing defender Evans to nod his second goal in three games beyond McCarthy.
Southampton, who have recorded fewer points than any other Premier League club during a difficult 2021, came under incessant pressure during the final 22 minutes but prevented a 13th defeat from 16 outings through a combination of heroic defending and a slice of fortune.
McCarthy superbly denied Vardy from close range and was later relieved to see the ball flash narrowly over after he flapped at a cross while challenging Iheanacho.