Leicester go second as James Maddison sets up win over Southampton

Peter Lansley at the King Power Stadium
·4 min read

James Maddison showed the way forward both for Leicester’s title aspirations and for Covid-19 protocols as he marked his winning goal by indulging in some socially distanced celebrations.

Related: Leicester City v Southampton: Premier League – live!

The England hopeful blasted home a fine first-half goal from an acute angle to help Leicester move second in the Premier League, ahead of Liverpool before the champions’ home game on Sunday against the leaders, Manchester United.

Depleted Southampton, losing away for the first time since the opening day and conceding for the first time in four games, created enough chances to win on a night when they missed Danny Ings, out with coronavirus. But it was the modestly mannered Maddison whose strike set up the difference between two excellent sides before Harvey Barnes scored a second in stoppage time and repeated Maddison’s celebratory charades.

Watched by Gareth Southgate, Maddison gave Leicester the lead eight minutes before half-time. The midfielder, back from a knee injury, ran on to Youri Tielemans’ pass down the inside-right channel and evaded Jack Stephens with deft footwork before unleashing a powerful left-footed shot into the near top corner.

The fit-again Alex McCarthy could not get a hand on that and Maddison celebrated his eighth goal of the season by flexing his muscles and offering his teammates polite air handshakes and pretend high fives, adhering to the call for footballers to show the way and avoid mingling too much when celebrating, to help keep the show on the road.

Harvey Barnes of Leicester City celebrates with teammate Youri Tielemans, touching boots to maintain social distancing measures.
Harvey Barnes of Leicester City celebrates with teammate Youri Tielemans, touching boots to maintain social distancing measures. Photograph: Getty Images

Maddison, one of several England contenders in Brendan Rodgers’ side, said: “If little things like that are what we need to keep football going then so be it. We have been told to stop gatherings of people and I tried to make it lighthearted.

“Footballers … get a lot of stick and it’s nice to put a lighter note on it. I don’t think you will find one person in the country who wants football to stop.

“I hope Gareth Southgate had his mask on; it’s nice to have him here. I want more international football [having] had a taste.

“It’s nice to be second in the table but last year we petered off in the new year so the next few months will be tough.”

Leicester could go top if they beat Chelsea on Tuesday and United fail to beat Liverpool on Sunday afternoon.

Southampton dominated for long spells and should have been ahead before Maddison’s opening goal. They were the more penetrative side in terms of chances created in the first half and Che Adams was unfortunate not to score from two chances down the inside‑right channel.

Timing his run from his own half perfectly to stay onside to latch on to Stuart Armstrong’s pass, his clip over Kasper Schmeichel hit the covering Tielemans.

Then William Smallbone, the young Irish midfielder making his third appearance of the season, fizzed a pass in that Theo Walcott flicked out to Adams. This time Schmeichel saved the well-struck right-footed shot at his near post and blocked again from Ryan Bertrand’s shot when the left-back ran clear on to James Ward-Prowse’s astute through pass.

“We were too passive in the first half,” Rodgers said. “We weren’t running enough, we weren’t aggressive enough. We reminded them at half-time that the Premier League is not all about lovely football, it’s also about doing the dirty stuff. We put it right in the second half.”

Leicester were indeed better in the second half but Southampton, missing seven players for assorted reasons, still did enough to merit a draw. The closest they came to scoring arrived 17 minutes from time, when Stuart Armstrong cut in from the left, moving laterally past defenders while getting his body shape right before cracking a superb shot from 20 yards against the crossbar.

“That was the maximum we can do with the players available to us with so many missing,” Ralph Hasenhüttl said. “I’m proud of my players today.”

McCarthy saved superbly from the best of several late opportunities for Jamie Vardy but Barnes scored his 10th goal of the season with the penultimate kick of the game after running clear on to Tielemans’ pass. Again his manners satisfied the government’s preference for footballers to celebrate without contact as he high-fived thin air.