Captain Wes Morgan sends Leicester seven points clear

Photo credit: AFP

Photo credit: AFP

Leicester City captain Wes Morgan scored his first goal in almost a year as the Premier League title-chasers edged Southampton 1-0 on Sunday to establish a potentially decisive seven-point lead.

Tottenham Hotspur’s 1-1 draw at Liverpool on Saturday had given Claudio Ranieri’s men an opportunity to strengthen their grip on first place and they duly took it courtesy of Morgan’s 38th-minute header.

It was Leicester’s fifth 1-0 victory in six matches and left the east Midlands club needing 12 points from their final six games to claim the first top-flight title in their 132-year history.

“Everyone is expecting something more for us and we are in the cloud, but we have to keep concentrating,” said Leicester manager Ranieri.

“I don’t want to think about champions. I want to focus on the match. There is a chance for us to be champions this season, but we have to be professional.”

Leicester were bottom of the table a year ago, but are now within sight of one of the most sensational underdog triumphs in world football history.

Meanwhile, Southampton manager Ronald Koeman, whose side remain seventh, was left to rue two penalty appeals for handball in each half that were turned away by referee Michael Oliver.

“This is a big match,” Koeman said. “It is about the Premier League title and our ambitions to play in Europe.

“I don’t say they don’t deserve the victory, that they don’t fight and have amazing spirit, but if it is a penalty and a red card, they don’t win.”

With chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha laying on free doughnuts and bottles of beer for home fans to mark his birthday and ‘Leicester City Champions 2016’ scarves for sale on the walk to the ground, the atmosphere could barely have been more festive at a sun-soaked King Power Stadium.

In a bid to counter Leicester’s two-pronged strike-force of Jamie Vardy and Shinji Okazaki, Southampton deployed a back three and while the home side made the early running, the clearest opportunities of the first half fell to the visitors.

– Southampton appeal –

Their best chance saw Graziano Pelle free Sadio Mane, who rounded Kasper Schmeichel and shot, only for the ball to strike Danny Simpson’s right forearm as he came across to cover the vacant goal.

Southampton appealed for a penalty, but the right-back’s arm had remained close to his body so referee Oliver waved play on.

Pelle also headed over from a Cedric Soares cross, while Jose Fonte fully extended Schmeichel with a rising drive from 25 yards and Jordie Clasie shot narrowly over after outmuscling Riyad Mahrez.

But with Southampton poised to poop the party, Leicester struck, Christian Fuchs guiding a cross into the box from the left flank and Morgan outjumping Clasie to plant a captain’s header inside the left-hand post.

SEE MORE: Leicester City fans causing earthquakes with celebrations

Dusan Tadic replaced Matt Targett at half-time for Southampton, who changed to a 4-2-3-1 system, but they were almost undone within seconds of the restart, with Victor Wanyama booked for putting an arm in Vardy’s face as the England striker looked to burst clear.

Just past the hour, it took a superb one-handed stop from Southampton goalkeeper Fraser Forster to prevent Fonte steering Danny Drinkwater’s cross into his own net.

Ten minutes later Forster was at it again, parrying from right on the goal-line after Simpson took aim at a gaping goal from Vardy’s low cross.

Koeman had seen his side come from 2-0 down to beat Liverpool 3-2 in their previous game and he threw caution to the wind by sending on Charlie Austin and James Ward-Prowse for Clasie and Steven Davis.

Seconds after coming on Austin had a strong penalty appeal when his shot struck Robert Huth’s outstretched left hand, but to the frustration of Southampton — and Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester City — Oliver was again unmoved.

Vardy might have settled the home nerves late on, only for Forster to repel his prodded effort, but it mattered not.

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