Shane Long’s wait ends as 10-man Southampton hang on at Leicester

The last thing Claude Puel needed on the back of a humiliating FA Cup exit was a third home defeat in four Premier League matches. That Southampton played for 45 minutes with 10 men, following the dismissal of Yan Valery, added insult to injury on another chastening afternoon for the Leicester manager, who, once again, finds himself under the spotlight.

The headline statistic is that Leicester are eighth in the table, yet that fails to tell the full story of their season. Puel’s decision to field weakened teams in the Carabao Cup and the FA Cup has done him no favours and the booing that greeted the final whistle provided a reasonable barometer of the mood. One elderly fan even had a “Puel Out” placard removed before a ball had been kicked.

It is 18 days since Leicester beat Manchester City at home, hot on the heels of an impressive victory at Chelsea, yet those results already feel like distant memories. They have lost against Cardiff and Southampton at home since and been dumped out of the FA Cup by Newport County, who are in the bottom half of League Two.

Puel had come out fighting before the game, yet it was his former club who delivered the blows that mattered. James Ward-Prowse converted from the spot and Shane Long, moments after Valery had been sent off, doubled Southampton’s lead in first-half injury-time.

Although Wilfred Ndidi pulled a goal back just before the hour mark and Leicester dominated thereafter, Southampton defended with tremendous determination and courage, epitomised by the performance of the excellent Jannik Vestergaard, and held on for the most precious of victories. They are now out of the bottom three and have a favourable run of matches to come.

Claude Puel cuts a dejected figure.
Claude Puel cuts a dejected figure. Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty Images

Leicester’s run of fixtures is not as obliging, although maybe that will help a team that rarely looks comfortable when trying to break down opponents who sit deep and apply what Puel described as “a deep block”.

Asked whether he feels under pressure, Puel replied: “It’s not my concern, no comment. I’m just focused and concentrating on my team. I want to work with these players. The fans are like us – disappointed and frustrated. We wanted to give a good response after the FA Cup against Newport.”

Bright from the outset, Southampton got off to a great start. Nampalys Mendy, who endured a miserable afternoon and was withdrawn at half-time, clumsily brought down Long as the Southampton forward ran on to Stuart Armstrong’s pass. Kasper Schmeichel got his hands to Ward-Prowse’s penalty but was unable to keep it out.

The first half was drifting and felt a little flat until Valery picked up the first of his two yellow cards for a high and late challenge on Ben Chilwell, who was also booked for his reaction. Wes Morgan had a shot cleared off the line by Jan Bednarek from the free-kick that followed but that was a rare Leicester chance in a first half that finished in dramatic fashion.

The clock had just ticked into the 45th minute when Valery was caught the wrong side of Marc Albrighton and pulled the midfielder back, giving Michael Oliver, the referee, little option but to brandish a red card. Ralph Hasenhüttl admitted he feared the worst at that point, but Southampton’s day got better.

Alex McCarthy punted upfield, Ricardo Pereira’s header was wayward and Mendy allowed Long to pick his pocket. With the angle against him, the Southampton striker tried to curl his shot into the far corner and Schmeichel inadvertently turned the ball into his own net. It was his first goal for nine months.

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Ndidi’s close-range finish, from Pereira’s cut-back, gave Leicester hope, but Southampton were in no mood to surrender.

“I’m really proud of this fantastic team,” Hasenhüttl said. “The way we defended, with the passion and the mentality, was incredible.”