Southampton (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Southampton put the row over former captain Jose Fonte’s departure to one side as they beat struggling champions Leicester 3-0 in the Premier League at St Mary’s on Sunday.
Fonte joined top-flight rivals West Ham in an £8 million ($9.9 million, 9.2 million euros) move on Friday, with the Portugal defender having been dropped by Southampton manager Claude Puel earlier this month after he handed in a transfer request.
But the Saints, no stranger to seeing their players leave for more lucrative offers at ‘bigger’ English clubs during the transfer window, shrugged off Fonte’s loss to end a run of four straight Premier League defeats in style.
For Leicester, this latest loss was their 11th in 22 league games so far this season and left them just five points above the relegation zone.
Southampton were 2-0 up before half-time thanks to goals from James Ward-Prowse and Jay Rodriguez.
The south coast side wrapped up just their seventh league win of the current campaign four minutes from time when Dusan Tadic scored from the penalty spot.
Victory was just the boost Southampton, now 11th in the table, needed ahead of their League Cup semi-final second leg clash against Liverpool on Wednesday, with the Saints taking a 1-0 lead to Anfield.
– Ranieri ‘mistake’ –
“The first goal in any game is important,” midfielder Ward-Prowse told Sky Sports. “After the bad run we have been on this is a turning point in the season.
“Wednesday is massive. It (Anfield) is a tough place to go but we can take confidence from today and how we played against them in the first leg and hopefully we can get to Wembley.”
Meanwhile Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri blamed himself for his side’s defeat and promised to revert to the formation that proved so successful for the Foxes during their shock title triumph last season.
“I think the last matches I changed shape to try to help my players play better but maybe I made mistakes,” he said.
“Against Chelsea we played three at the back and today we wanted to play with a diamond. The players are used to 4-4-1-1 and know the positions but I made a mistake,” the Italian added. “I think it is much better to give them what they know well.”
Southampton made a bright start and the goal they had been threatening arrived in the 26th minute.
Cedric Soares sped down the right and cut the ball back to Ward-Prowse, whose first-time curling shot just had enough power to beat the diving Kasper Schmeichel.
It was Ward-Prowse’s first goal in 22 games in all competitions for the club since he was on target against West Ham on September 25.
Ward-Prowse then turned provider as Southampton doubled their lead 13 minutes later.
Poor defending has been a feature of faltering champions Leicester’s play this season and another example came when they failed to deal with Ward-Prowse’s free-kick into the box.
The ball skimmed off Leicester centre-back Wes Morgan’s head and Rodriguez fired home from close range.
Southampton, who three days after their Liverpool clash face Arsenal in the fourth round of the FA Cup, thought they had a third gaol in the 75th minute when Morgan, under pressure from Maya Yoshida, put Tadic’s free-kick into his own net.
But referee Michael Oliver, after consulting with his linesman, disallowed the ‘goal’ for a marginal offside decision.
Morgan, however, fell foul of the officials when he brought down Shane Long inside the box to concede a penalty, with Tadic firing the ensuing spot-kick high past Schmeichel and into the roof of the net.
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