• Adam Stanworth


Updated: Nov 16, 2020

On a wind-swept, rain-soaked Friday night at St Mary’s, Leicester blew an entirely absent Southampton away in record-breaking fashion as the two sides played out one of the most extraordinary contests in Premier League history.

Going into the fixture the contrast between the two sides was stark.

Southampton had made an abysmal start to the season with manager Ralph Hassenhuttl’s high-energy philosophy not translating into results.

His side had picked up just two wins since the beginning of the season and hovered just above the relegation zone.

Meanwhile, it was an entirely different story for Leicester, who had made an excellent start to the season and sat pretty in third place thanks to a number of impressive results such as a late win over Spurs and a 5-0 thrashing of Newcastle at the King Power Stadium.

Their only defeats had come at the hands of the outstanding Liverpool and Manchester City and both of which were only by single goal margins.

The disparity in form had put Leicester as the bookies’ favourites to win the game, but not even the most optimistic of fans would have predicted what was about to happen.

Initially, there was little evidence that the game would produce the score-line it eventually did, as the heavy rain on the South Coast had resulted in sloppy play and quality at a premium. A harmless Harvey Barnes effort was the only of note in what was a rather dull opening few minutes.

However, any ill-informed suggestions that a drab affair was to come, evaporated on the ten-minute mark.

A sliced cross from Ben Chilwell went straight to Harvey Barnes, whose shot was saved by Angus Gunn but his save fell at the feet of Chilwell who tapped the ball past the keeper.

The menace of VAR was kind to the Foxes, on this occasion as it was adjudged that the left-back was onside when Barnes let fly.

Nevertheless, the goal was in keeping with the state of play during the opening ten minutes. Sloppy.

VAR, however, was not just reviewing the Leicester goal itself, it was also examining events that had unfolded in the build up to it. It proved to be a double-whammy for Southampton as a retrospective red-card was given to Ryan Bertrand for a reckless challenge on Ayoze Perez. A goal down and a man down.

The red-card proved to be a hammer blow to any form of competitiveness we could have expected from the game after the goal.

Just five minutes later, things got even worse for the Saints as Harvey Barnes rode two challenges from Yan Valery and Oriol Romeu, before his cross deflected into the path of Youri Tielemans who stroked the ball into the bottom corner of the net.

The floodgates were now well and truly open.

Not two minutes had passed before more statuesque defending from Southampton allowed Ayoze Perez to run into the penalty area unchallenged, collecting the ball back from Youri Tielemans after a one-two, and firing at Angus Gunn, who fumbled the ball into the net, compounding a miserable ten minutes for the Saints.

At this point you would expect an onslaught, but for the next twenty minutes the game settled into one which resembled two sides playing football and not just one.

Both Leicester and Southampton went close as the game became more open just

after the half-hour mark. However, this would be as good as it got for the latter.

Just shy of forty minutes, Ben Chilwell sent a superb ball into the box which, rather than defending it, the Southampton players just to watch sailed over their heads.

A grateful Perez then nipped in at the back post, unmarked, to stab the ball into the roof of the net as 20,000 Saints fans let out a collective sigh of utter apathy.

Things got even worse just before half-time for the home fans.

A chipped cross by Chilwell was feebly headed away by James Ward-Prowse who inadvertently sent the ball spinning into the path of Jamie Vardy.

The striker then knocked the ball past Maya Yoshida, who had dived in to retrieve the ball, before hammering the ball into the net to add a fifth just on the stroke of half-time and send the travelling fans in for their pints and pies, jubilant.

It took a whole twelve minutes after the break for Leicester to get their sixth. Some neat play saw Chilwell play the ball inside to Barnes who lifted the ball over the Southampton defenders, exquisitely, onto the chest of Perez who lashed home his hat-trick.

Barely a minute had gone since their sixth but Leicester were in no mood to rest on their laurels as they found themselves in seventh heaven almost immediately. Harvey Barnes set Chilwell loose down the Leicester left before the left back sent in a cross from the bye-line which was headed in by Vardy.

Both Yoshida and Kevin Danso were guilty of defending, that would make even the club’s Under 7s wince, as between them neither picked up the ever-dangerous Leicester striker and allowed him a free header.

After a goalless twenty-five minutes, Leicester won themselves a free kick on the edge of the box in prime James Maddison territory. The England international gleefully accepted the chance to punish Southampton further as he curled his effort into the top corner of the net to make it EIGHT.

With the record away victory looming large, Jamie Vardy was sent scampering after a Marc Albrighton ball into the box but was inexplicably hauled down by Jan Bednarek as the ball was rolling out of play.

Another gift for Leicester and Vardy, who made no mistake from the spot to add a ninth, just before Andre Marriner blew his whistle for the final time to put an end to Southampton’s horror show.

As the last of the home fans trudged out, now thinking that staying in and watching Bake Off: An Extra Slice would have probably been the better option, there was an air of wistful pragmatism that things could not get any worse.

It had been a humiliating evening for Southampton who saw their dismal run continue in embarrassing fashion but it was a quite unbelievable one for Leicester who maintained their impressive form under Brendan Rodgers.

With the benefit of hindsight, this nadir can be seen as a turning point for Southampton who have enjoyed a remarkable resurgence and fast forward twelve months the Saints sat, albeit briefly, top of the pile on Friday night.

Credit should be given to the board for standing by Ralph Hassenhuttl rather than giving the German a panic-induced P45.

Credit is also due, of course, to Hassenhuttl, who has stuck to his philosophy and got Southampton playing attractive and effective football which saw them comfortably evade the clutches of relegation and kick on with aplomb in the new season.

Such was the rapid transformation that, in the reverse fixture, the Saints went some way to exacting revenge on Leicester as they emerged the victors thanks to a late Danny Ings winner at the King Power Stadium.

This was symptomatic of a Southampton team that have made an exceptional recovery to a defeat that would have sunk many a side.