Shane Long scored his first goal for nine months as Southampton moved out of the Premier League relegation zone with a battling win at Leicester, despite spending the entire second half with 10 men.
James Ward-Prowse gave Southampton an early lead from the penalty spot after Long was bundled over in the area by Nampalys Mendy.
Saints defender Yan Valery was then shown a second yellow card for a foul on Marc Albrighton but Ireland striker Long doubled their lead just before half-time with his first Southampton goal in 22 appearances.
Wilfred Ndidi scrambled home Ricardo Pereira’s cross to bring Leicester back into the game at the start of the second half, but Southampton held on for a priceless victory.
The three points lift Southampton above Newcastle and Cardiff into 16th place. Leicester meanwhile drop one place to eighth.
It is a third win in seven Premier League games for new Saints manager Ralph Hasenhuttl, who punched the air with delight at the final whistle.
His side were forced to defend on the edge of their own penalty area for the entirety of the second half, but the Southampton backline was superbly marshalled by Jannik Vestergaard, Jan Bednarek and Jack Stephens and the win gives them real hope of avoiding relegation.
The boos at the final whistle are unlikely to ease the pressure on Hasenhuttl’s Leicester counterpart Claude Puel, who had demanded a response from his side following last weekend’s FA Cup defeat at League Two Newport.
Instead his team were timid from the outset and despite dominating possession in the second half, rarely looked like threatening Alex McCarthy in the Southampton goal.
Long ends drought to secure precious victory
Shane Long would probably not have started this game were it not for injuries to fellow strikers Danny Ings, Charlie Austin and Michael Obafemi.
The 31-year-old had failed to hit the back of the net for Southampton since a 3-2 defeat by Chelsea at the start of April and has largely played the role of not-so-super sub this season.
But after being restored to the starting line-up for last week’s FA Cup draw with Derby, the 31-year-old retained his place and chose the ideal time to score just his second goal in 36 appearances for club and country.
The former Hull, West Brom and Reading striker more than played his role in a disciplined Saints performance as the visitors looked to defend deep before hitting Leicester on the counter.
They were helped on their way by some sloppy defending by the Foxes, with Mendy needlessly bundling Long over in the area to allow Southampton to take the lead from the penalty spot.
Mendy and Pereira then failed to deal with a routine goal-kick, allowing Long to steal in and double the away side’s lead seconds before the half-time whistle.
Moments before that goal, teenage defender Valery, who up to that point had been impressive down the Southampton right, was deservedly sent-off for a needless tug on Albrighton.
However, Long’s goal had given Southampton the buffer they needed to launch a spirited defensive effort in the second half.
Bednarek was at the heart of Southampton’s good defensive work. The Poland defender made more blocks and clearances than any other Saints player whilst defensive partner won 100% of his aerial duels, summing up the Saints’ battling qualities at the back.
Pressure increases on beleaguered Puel
Leicester manager Claude Puel came out fighting in the build-up to this game as he vigorously defended his team selection in the FA Cup defeat at Newport.
He restored many of his senior players to the starting line-up against Southampton, including James Maddison, Harry Maguire and Jamie Vardy.
But instead of sparking a response, the Foxes made a timid start as they struggled to break down a stubborn Saints rearguard.
They only created one opportunity of note in the first half, when Wes Morgan’s scrambled effort from Ben Chilwell’s free-kick was cleared off the line by Bednarek.
Ndidi’s scuffed finish should have set the platform for a rousing fightback shortly after the break, but the Foxes failed to carve out many clear-cut openings.
Instead they were restricted to shots from distance, with Maguire responsible for two of their six shots on target while Vardy failed to have a shot on goal at all.
It is hard to believe it is only three weeks since Leicester secured memorable back-to-back victories against Chelsea and Manchester City, but the boos at the final whistle highlighted the discontent currently simmering among their fanbase.
Stewards removed some, admittedly small, ‘Puel out’ banners before kick-off but their very presence suggests the Frenchman has much to do if he is to convince the fans he is the right man for the job.
Man of the match -Jan Bednarek (Southampton)
‘I’m proud of my players’ – what they said
Leicester City manager Claude Puel, speaking to MOTD, is asked if he feels under pressure: “It’s not my concern, no comment. I’m just focused and concentrating on my team.
“I want to work with these players. It’s football. The fans are like us – disappointed and frustrated.”
On the result: “It’s a big disappointment. We wanted to give a good response after the FA Cup against Newport.
“It’s difficult to accept the second goal we conceded. We had a lot of chances and opportunities.
“It was important to try and manage this game with intensity in our passes. It was difficult to be clinical and maybe we needed a bit more movement in the box.
“It’s important to find good moves and understanding and communication.”
Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl, speaking to MOTD: “I’m unbelievably proud of my players.
“To be manager of this team, it’s a fantastic job. Today they showed their quality. To go 2-0 in the lead at Leicester is not easy and we defended with fantastic commitment.”
On Shane Long’s contribution: “I said to Shane, ‘You deserve to score today because you worked so hard in the week’. He is quick and has good headers. It was a really good game for him.”
Saints win on the road again – the stats
- Leicester City’s last three Premier League defeats have come against sides starting the day in 16th (Crystal Palace), 17th (Cardiff City) and 18th (Southampton).
- Southampton have won two of Ralph Hasenhuttl’s four away games in the Premier League (D1 L1), as many victories on the road in the competition as in Mark Hughes’ full tenure at the club (P12 W2 D3 L7).
- In matches involving Leicester City in the Premier League this season, there has been nine red cards shown (four for, five against), the most of any club in the division.
- Wilfried Ndidi has scored two goals in his last 13 Premier League appearances for Leicester, as many strikes as in his first 59 matches in the competition.
- Southampton’s Yan Valery (19y 324d) is the youngest ever player to be sent off in a Premier League match for the Saints.
- James Ward-Prowse has scored each of the three penalties he’s taken in the Premier League – among current players in the competition, only Danny Ings and Junior Stanislas (4/4) have a better 100% ratio from the spot.
Southampton host Championship side Derby in an FA Cup third round replay on Wednesday (19:45 GMT) before another home game in the Premier League against Everton next Saturday (15:00 GMT).
Next up for Leicester is a trip to Molineux to take on Wolves in the lunchtime kick-off next Saturday (12:30 GMT).