Report: Saints dealt heavy defeat at Leicester

Live Matchday Images/2023-24/20240423 Leicester vs Southampton/AY5I9854_vs0llh

Southampton’s path to a possible promotion now appears to clearly lie through the Championship play-offs, after suffering a 5-0 defeat at leaders Leicester City.

Saints’ chances of a top-two finish would have remained on the slim side even with a win at King Power Stadium, but Abdul Fatawu’s hat-trick, coupled with goals from Wilfred Ndidi and Jamie Vardy, makes it practically certain they will now need to navigate their way towards Wembley for the opportunity to make an immediate return to the Premier League.

Following the frustration at Cardiff three days earlier, Russell Martin made a triple change to his starting line-up, as James Bree, Shea Charles and Joe Rothwell all came into the team for this midweek trip, which had been rescheduled from its original March date due to Leicester’s progression into the FA Cup quarter-finals.

Shea Charles was one of three changes to the team (Photo: Matt Watson)

Saints were without Stuart Armstrong after his season-ending injury in Wales, while Ryan Manning and Will Smallbone moved to the bench.

The game held big implications in the automatic promotion race, with Leicester knowing a win would put them on the brink of an immediate return to the Premier League, while victory for Saints would keep at least some chance of a top-two finish alive, albeit with plenty of help still needed elsewhere.

Having earned a crucial home win over West Brom at the weekend, the Foxes’ tails were up in the early stages and they were the ones who created the first significant chances of the night.

On 11 minutes, it was Fatawu who threatened, cutting onto his left foot just inside the corner of the area before hitting his shot straight at Alex McCarthy. And, moments later, it was Ndidi’s turn to go close, as he whipped a curling effort from 20 yards narrowly wide of the far post.

The breakthrough did eventually come for the hosts, though, as Fatawu scored in the 25th minute.

Leicester won the ball in the Saints half, with Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall sliding a pass through for the run of Fatawu and he produced a clinical, one-on-one finish, taking a touch with his right foot to set himself and then firing low into the corner with his left.

There was a possibility the Leicester forward could have been offside, but the assistant referee’s flag remained down and the goal stood.

Saints’ misfortune then increased with five minutes left in the half when their unfortunate spate of recent injuries continued, as Rothwell picked up an issue and had to be substituted, with Smallbone sent on in his place.

Saints lost Joe Rothwell to injury late in the first half (Photo: Matt Watson)

Half-time brought an opportunity to reset, and Martin’s side certainly began the second half with more threat, causing a couple of nervy moments for the home side within the opening minutes of the restart.

Looking to build on that pressure, Martin made two changes on the hour mark, as Manning and Sam Edozie were sent on for Bree and David Brooks.

But no sooner had those substitutions been made than Leicester doubled their lead.

Ndidi was the one who both started and ended the move, winning the ball deep in the Saints half – with the visitors perhaps aggrieved he wasn’t penalised for a foul on Charles in the process. But, with no free-kick given, Leicester moved the ball quickly across the pitch, and Stephy Mavididi clipped in a cross that found the run of Ndidi, who planted a header past McCarthy from about six yards.

It then got worse for Saints with 15 minutes left, as Fatawu scored his second of the night to make it 3-0, cutting inside from the right wing and bending a left-footed shot into the far top corner.

Vardy then added the fourth soon after, sweeping home from a low Fatawu cross, before returning the favour only two minutes later, providing a delivery for his teammate to tap home for his hat-trick.

Leicester City: Hermansen, Pereira (Choudhury 64), Faes, Vestergaard (Coady 86'), Justin, Winks, Dewsbury-Hall, Ndidi (Praet 82'), Mavididi, Vardy (captain) (Daka 82'), Fatawu (McAteer 86').

Unused substitutes: Stolarczyk, Doyle, Akgun, Cannon.

Goals: Fatawu (25’, 75’, 81’), Ndidi (62’), Vardy (79’).

Booked: Vestergaard.

Southampton: McCarthy, Walker-Peters, Harwood-Bellis, Bednarek, Bree (Manning 60), Charles, Aribo (Stephens 83'), Rothwell (Smallbone 40), Brooks (Edozie 60), Adams (Fraser 83'), A Armstrong (captain).

Unused substitutes: Lumley, Meghoma, Dibling, Kamaldeen.

Referee: Robert Madley.