| 6.8°C Belfast

Captain Morgan leads by example


Victory roar: Wes Morgan is chased down by his
delighted Leicester team-mates after grabbing the winner against Southampton

Victory roar: Wes Morgan is chased down by his delighted Leicester team-mates after grabbing the winner against Southampton

Victory roar: Wes Morgan is chased down by his delighted Leicester team-mates after grabbing the winner against Southampton

Wes Morgan, the indomitable captain who has led Leicester City's remarkable title challenge, edged Claudio Ranieri's team to within 12 points of the championship by scoring his first goal of the season to secure victory against Southampton.

Morgan, the former Nottingham Forest defender, has been one of the many stories of Leicester's season - a journeyman centre-half now enjoying the most incredible chapter in a previously unheralded career.

And his first-half goal, which settled yet another 1-0 win, moved Leicester seven points clear at the top to suggest it is now a matter of when, rather than if, they become the most unlikely champions in English football history.

There are various stages of tension during a Premier League title race, but none quite so nerve-shredding as the run-in.

From this point on, it is all about negotiating the final furlong without distractions and that is when the anxiety begins to set in. But there has been a refreshing absence of such tension at the King Power Stadium, even when they have struggled to get over the line against the likes of Newcastle and Norwich.

They did so on both occasions with narrow 1-0 victories, and that fighting spirit has clearly given the supporters belief and faith.

But there is still a job to be done and Southampton made that abundantly clear during a hard-fought first-half.

Ronald Koeman's team retain ambitions of Europa League qualification and Ranieri warned of their capabilities in his programme notes, citing the Saints' fightback from 2-0 down to win against Liverpool last time out as evidence of their threat.

But Southampton initially set out to frustrate, at times defending with 11 men behind the ball, but the Foxes did not allow themselves to become affected.

The early chances all fell to Southampton, though, with Graziano Pelle heading over at the near post on 29 minutes before Danny Simpson was fortunate not to concede a penalty when blocking Sadio Mane's goalbound effort with his right arm.

Mane had rounded goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel after breaking clear, but Simpson's defiant block epitomised the never-say-die spirit of Ranieri's team.

They continued to resist Southampton pressure with Jose Fonte forcing a save from Schmeichel and Jordy Clasie shooting narrowly over prior to Morgan's opener.

It was a goal of beautiful simplicity, but one which could yet carry so much significance.

Good work in midfield by Danny Drinkwater and N'Golo Kante saw the ball drop to Christian Fuchs on the left and the full-back whipped in a penetrating cross which found Morgan, being marked by the diminutive Clasie, on the penalty spot.

Morgan outmuscled the Dutch midfielder to send a header past goalkeeper Fraser Forster. It was his first goal of the campaign, so perfectly timed.

Having won four of their previous five games with a 1-0 margin, Leicester were hardly in unfamiliar territory as they set about holding on to their lead in the second-half.

But rather than sit back and defend, they went for the kill, attempting to score the second which would see off Southampton's attempt to claw themselves back into it.

But Forster proved a stubborn opponent in the Saints goal, with the England goalkeeper clawing away a sliced clearance by Fonte on 61 minutes before scrambling across his line to keep out Danny Simpson's six-yard effort 10 minutes later. Jamie Vardy was also denied.

With Mane looking lively and dangerous for Southampton, Forster's saves kept Koeman's team alive, but Leicester held on once again to edge closer to the title.

Four more victories and the Premier League trophy will be theirs. The celebrations at the final whistle suggested that they are preparing to hoist it high.

LEICESTER: Schmeichel, Simpson, Morgan, Huth, Fuchs, Drinkwater, Kanté, Albrighton (Dyer, 90 mins), Mahrez (Gray, 79 mins), Okazaki (Ulloa, 63 mins) Vardy. Unused subs: Schwarzer, Amartey, Wasilewski, King.

SOUTHAMPTON: Forster, Bertrand, Targett (Tadic, 46 mins), Fonte, Van Dijk, Soares, Davis (Ward-Prowse, 72 mins), Clasie (Austin, 72 mins), Wanyama, Mane, Pelle. Unused subs: Stekelenburg, Yoshida, Romeu, Rodriguez .

Man of the match: Wes Morgan (pictured)

Match rating: 7/10

Referee: Michael Oliver

Belfast Telegraph