Fresh from blasting in an emphatic equaliser, James Maddison moseyed around the back of the Southampton net before turning his back on the ecstatic Leicester City support and pointing with both thumbs to the name on his shirt. A stinging strike, a broad smile and suddenly Leicester were in the ascendency. But then Jamie Vardy squandered a golden chance to win it, and ultimately it was a night when familiar failings put paid to any hopes of victory. It is now one clean sheet in 20 matches.
Leicester twice equalised after goals from Southampton by Jan Bednarek and Ché Adams, with a collector’s item for Jonny Evans in the first half and then Maddison’s leveller just after half-time, before Vardy, their talisman, passed up his big opening with 15 minutes to play, driving over after being set free. A few moments earlier Harvey Barnes, racing on to a loose ball, was brilliantly denied by the Southampton goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, who flew to his right to paw wide. Brendan Rodgers, usually so unruffled, threw his head and shoulders towards the floor in frustration. It was nothing compared to the anger he felt at the interval.
“There were some harsh words said at half-time from the gaffer and our captain, rightly so, and it paid off,” Maddison said. “On the balance of the game a draw was maybe a fair result. The gaffer always reiterates to us that ‘when you cannot win, do not lose’ because a point is better than nothing. It is frustrating that it is another game without a clean sheet because we spend a lot of time in training on the defensive side of things.”
Leicester’s brittleness – only Norwich have conceded more top-flight goals this season – threatens to undermine any ideas of a top four finish, and the signs were ominous when they twice crumbled when defending short-corner routines against a team that have struggled for goals. On three minutes Bednarek scrambled in after Schmeichel had saved superbly from Mohammed Salisu, then Evans replied midway through the first half, hammering in after Maddison recycled a corner.
But Rodgers bemoaned the lack of concentration that saw them come unstuck again 10 minutes before the break, Adams glancing in a header from a delicious Nathan Redmond cross.
“Every now and then you have to be angry,” Rodgers said. “With the modern player, if you do it all the time, they will switch off. But sometimes you have to be direct, and it was easy [to be] because in the first half we were nowhere near our level. We were too soft and everything was too easy. We showed a better mentality in the second half but we have to be better for ourselves.”
Leicester were left to stew on a frustrating opening 45 minutes, with the second half delayed by 15 minutes due to a supporter suffering a seizure. Paramedics carried a fan out of the Kingsland stand on a stretcher before play resumed.
The second half was barely a minute old when Tella headed horribly wide for Southampton after James Ward-Prowse had robbed Wilfred Ndidi on the edge of the Leicester box. Leicester were wobbling at that point, but then Maddison responded with a peach.
Maddison started the attack and finished it in style. He skipped down the left and, after latching on to a through ball by the Leicester full-back Luke Thomas, proceeded to teach the Southampton teenager Tino Livramento a harsh lesson, wringing the defender inside-out before clinically dispatching a shot at goal, beating McCarthy at his near post. “I feel I have got my swagger back,” said Maddison, who also scored in victory against Watford last week.
Maddison soaked up the adulation from the away fans and now he was grooving. A couple of minutes later the Leicester midfielder, hair slicked back, snaked his way past a sheepish Livramento, the defender seemingly scarred from their previous duel.
That proved just the start of an entertaining, end-to-end crescendo, with Leicester undoubtedly finishing the stronger. Barnes, Vardy and then substitute Ayoze Pérez, at the end of a swift counterattack, all spurned chances.
Southampton, too, could wonder what might have been. “We had a big chance for a third goal – we need to [score] in these moments,” said their manager, Ralph Hasenhüttl.