Leicester are deep in the relegation battle after losing at Southampton

Southampton’s Carlos Alcaraz celebrates scoring his side’s first goal of the game during the Premier League match at St Mary’s Stadium, Southampton – PA/Andrew Matthews

Southampton’s young Spanish manager Ruben Selles paid tribute to his side’s fighting spirit after a tenacious win saw them move from bottom of the table.

The 39-year-old, who took over at St Mary’s after Nathan Jones was sacked last month, has now recorded two significant wins in his three Premier League games.

That win – against a wasteful Leicester side who are now back in relegation troubles themselves – might not have been as flashy as the Saints’ raid on Chelsea, but it confirms a change in momentum that seemed in doubt when they embarrassingly walked out of the FA Cup to Grimsby midweek.

Argentina midfielder Carlos Alcaraz scored the only goal of the game in the 35th minute and although Leicester dominated possession and territory, striker Kelechi Iheanacho missed three comfortable opportunities he would normally take.

A fourth chance also went deep into stoppage time when Harry Souttar headed the crossbar from a James Maddison cross.

Southampton could even afford to let Leicester goalkeeper Danny Ward save a penalty against the normally dependable James Ward-Prowse just before Alcaraz struck.

Alcaraz celebrated his goal enthusiastically – he slid over the touchline onto his bench – too enthusiastically as it turned out, having injured himself in the process and had to be substituted early in the second half.

But Southampton clung to just their second home win of the season – and their first since August – to overtake Bournemouth on goal difference.

“It wasn’t the best match we can play, but we showed character and determination,” Selles said.

“The game is about the mindset. Let’s fight until the last minute. It’s not something you can just say to people. It comes from having faith in what you’re doing.

“It’s as big as winning at Chelsea but maybe even more special because it’s happening in front of our own fans.”

The result was Leicester’s fourth consecutive defeat in all competitions and leaves them just three points above the relegation zone.

Their manager, Brendan Rodgers, left the field with chants for his release from part of the club’s traveling support, and he insisted: “I respect people’s opinions. This season has been a challenge from the very first game.

“It’s going to be very close, but we have to focus on ourselves and play the way we can, then we’ll get the points we need.

“I am disappointed with the result. I thought we created enough chances to win the game.

“Kelechi has been brilliant for us lately. Tonight he kept fighting and working, but he didn’t like it. At least he was there to try to capitalize on those opportunities.”

Ward-Prowse’s penalty miss came after Timothy Castagne blocked a Theo Walcott cross with his arm.

Leicester goalkeeper Danny Ward made an excellent low save but was unmasked shortly after when Che Adams opened Leicester’s defense at half-time and ran through Alcaraz to score.

It took a VAR check for offside but the goal stood, although Selles later had advice for the 20-year-old regarding his choice of cheer.

“He’ll have to think about that next time he celebrates,” added the Southampton manager.

Southampton have overtaken Bournemouth on goal difference but just six points separate the last nine clubs.

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