King Power Stadium, Saturday, 15:00
Two goals for Ché Adams as a second half substitute, this was the spectacular winner in the 84th minute
|In the buildup to the match, all the talk was about which new striker Saints were going to make their record signing, but it now seems we might have to wait until much nearer the end of the transfer window to see who Ralph and his team end up with. The media, particularly social media are hilarious at the moment, with the club seemingly linked to dozens of players. The vast majority are just agents pushing their men into the spotlight, or just wishful thinking. Working out which rumours have substance is an almost impossible task.
As for the team today, when it was announced I remember a feeling of excitement, looking at what appeared to be a 4-3-3, but what a young team it was! Elyounoussi was the oldest player there at 28 and then Ward-Prowse who is 27.
Bazunu is clearly the No.! Keeper now (thank goodness) and in front of him was a 'conventional' back four of Walker-Peters , Bella-Kotchup, Salisu and Djenepo. The latter seems to be turning into a halfway decent left wing back, who would have thought it!
The midfield trio was Ward-Prowse, Lavia and Aribo, with the front three of Elyounoussi, Adam Armstrong and Mara.
Brave choices, certainly an attacking lineup.
For Leicester it was good to see that we no longer had Schmeichel to worry about in goal, although Vardy had signed contract extension earlier in the week, so was looking very chipper when the teams came out.
From the kick off it quickly became apparent that both teams were playing 4-3-3 and to a large extent seemed to be cancelling each other out. Leicester had by far the most possession, but on the other hand Saints defence looked well able to handle their attack.
Vardy though was using all his experience to try and give them the edge and where they couldn't get the upper hand by fair means, they resorted to the dark arts. Vardy tried to get by Bella Kotchap inside the penalty area, but looked to have been brought down by the young German. The ref was unimpressed and replays showed that it was Vardy that initiated the contact. No booking though.
There was one chance that came from the sheer persistence of the team, when continual pressure on the home team resulted in a break to Elyounoussi who lofted a diagonal ball to Mara. The flag stayed down and he raced on, slotting the ball confidently home past the keeper. Only then did the flag go up. Replays showed he was well offside though.
So, the first half continued with neither side getting the upper hand, it was noticeable that Bella-Kotchap was looking more comfortable with every passing minute. Also Djenepo had clearly been told not to venture too far upfield, but he was coping well with what pressure Leicester were putting him under.
Having thought that Saints would play 4-3-3, they were actually playing with a very fluid shape. Against the ball it was a 4-3-2-1, but with the ball it turned to a 4-2-3-1. Although nullifying the Leicester threat, it did mean chances were few and far between.
We got to halftime with the score stuck on 0-0 and Leicester had dominated possession. Saints had looked more comfortable at the back than for some time. The combination of a goalkeeper who comes off his line confidently, together with a solid partnership in front of him in Salisu and Bella-Kotchap seemed to breed confidence through the team.
However, almost immediately from the restart, Salisu conceded a free kick on the edge of the box. The defenders organised themselves and a three man wall stood waiting for Maddison to take the kick. Jo Tessem was getting agitated on Radio Solent, as he thought the wall was not properly set up. He was right.
The whistle blew and Maddison curled his shot round the wall, inside the near post. 1-0. This was inexperience, which will happen with the youngsters from time to time.
Rather than galvanise Leicester, it galvanised Saints into action. Right away Lavia was replaced by Ché Adams and suddenly Djenepo was bombing up the Saints left flank and Kyle Walker-Peters up the right and the home side were suddenly under real pressure.
The Saints bench had decided that another change was needed and as Stuart Armstrong was getting ready Saints won a throw in and Salisu took one of his, now trademark, long throws and for a refreshing change it worked! The throw landed at Bella-Kotchap's feet and he tapped it sideways to Adams, who thumped it past the keeper towards the far corner. A defender got a foot to it, but the slight deflection made no difference to the end result. Goal, 1-1.
Ralph then took the opportunity to switch Armstrongs, off went Adam and on came Stuart. It only looked like there would be one winner now and that wasn't Leicester, the natives were definitely getting restless.
The goal, when it came, showed how aggressive Saints had become since the goal. They were everywhere and Leicester just couldn't keep hold of the ball. The home side were trying to move forward, but took too long on the ball and JWP just stepped up and took it from them. From him it went to Elyounoussi who saw Walker-Peters alone on the right. The captain moved into the space behind him and when KWP was confronted with several defenders, passed back to JWP. Ward-Prowse didn't even break his stride, sending a first time cross into the penalty area, to be met by Ché Adams and with an extravagant scissors kick dispatched the ball past Leicester keeper, Ward. 1-2. Comeback complete!
There were only six minutes, plus time added and again Ralph reacted quickly, taking off Aribo and sending on Lyanco, who promptly let Maddison know he was there as the Leicester player was moaning at the ref, after Bella-Kotchap had got both the ball and the man... The ref was not interested in any of this.
There was still time for a bit more drama when one of Bazunu's long, long kicks found Stuart Armstrong pressuring the defenders into a mistake. He squared the ball to Adams right in front of goal, but with his back to it, swivelled and shot, only to see it hit the inside of the post and bounce back out. Millimetres from a hat trick.
The whistle went for full time and there was pandemonium amongst the Saints bench, players and fans. Wonderful stuff. Three precious points away from home. We still need the replacement for Graziano Pellè that we have never got and I wonder if this is the season we finally get him?? Saints are at last beginning to look like a decent team, it just needs the final piece of the jigsaw.
Loads of candidates, ranging from the coaches and Ralph, who got all their calls right and what a refreshing change that is too, to Bella-Kotchap who looks a real find and brings a stability to the defence, which rubs off onto Salisu performance.
But no, there can only be one winner, who didn't even come onto the pitch until the 59th minute. Outstanding performance Ché Adams
IBO Reporter: channonite
Bella-Kotchap is looking increasingly assured and gave a near faultless performance.