Southampton’s youngsters suffered a narrow 1-0 defeat at the hands of Leicester City in the Under-18’s Premier League.
Oli Ewing’s solitary strike on 22 minutes was enough to seal all three points for the hosts, despite Southampton creating several chances to seal a point late on.
The brisk conditions at Leicester’s all new training facility certainly didn’t impact the competitiveness of the game, both teams battling hard from the first whistle to establish themselves in a match seen by many as a ‘six-pointer’.
The first chance fell the way of the Saints, Kami Doyle skipping away from his man and sliding a well-weighted ball into Luke Pearce whose powered shot was well smothered by the outrushing Arlo Doherty in goal for Leicester.
Southampton were unfortunate to lose bright spark Diamond Edwards after 20 minutes through injury, and had salt rubbed into their wound’s moments later as Ewing glided across the box and curled a precise effort past an outstretched Matt Hall and into the bottom left corner.
Undoubtedly inspired by their early goal, The Foxes began to control the game in a way you would expect from the home team; breaking away in the 40th minute in search of a second goal and were only stopped by an excellent slide tackle from last man Jeremi Rodriguez.
Desperate to reply before the break, Southampton substitute Dom Ballard fashioned an opportunity to cross from the right, his floated ball just too high for Doyle at the back post, who headed over.
Only a few seconds into the second half Leicester’s skilful Chris Popov had an opportunity to run and shoot from a tight angle down the left side, his effort palmed away by Hall but consequently cannoned into the net off the knee of Squires. However, Popov was later deemed to have been offside and Southampton’s blushes were spared.
The half-time team talk was clearly an influential one as Saints looked much sharper throughout the second half, but once again had goalkeeper Hall to thank on two more occasions, the English stopper saving superbly from both Popov and Tawanda Maswanhise in the 65th and 72nd minutes respectively, to keep Southampton in the game.
With just 10 minutes remaining, substitute Tyler Dibbling, who was stepping up from the Under-15s, showed his dazzling feet, tiptoeing his way through the Leicester midfield and earning the saints a well-placed freekick that was eventually crashed against the crossbar by Doyle, to the anguish of the visitor’s bench.
Saints then crafted another brilliant opportunity on 89 minutes, breaking away from a Leicester set-piece Doyle fed Pearce, who expertly drove into the penalty area and shifted the ball onto his left foot, but could only slice his shot wide of Doherty’s left post.
In the final minute of stoppage time, right back Lewis Payne made a darting run into the box that was seen by substitute Cameron Bragg, but the eventual effort was struck high and wide by the defender and somewhat summed up Southampton’s unfortunate day in front of goal.
Saints will look to bounce back in their next league game against West Ham United, scheduled for 6th March 2021 at Staplewood Campus.