Southampton 1 Leicester City 4: Puel serves up Saints revenge
Claude Puel returned to haunt former club Southampton in the Premier League on Wednesday, as Leicester City ran riot to win 4-1 at St Mary's Stadium.
Goals from a rejuvenated Riyad Mahrez, the tireless Shinji Okazaki and club stalwart Andy King had appeared to put the result beyond doubt before the break, and Okazaki's second served as a settler after Maya Yoshida pulled one back to briefly threaten a comeback.
Puel was dismissed by Southampton in June despite leading them to the EFL Cup final and eighth place in the table last season.
The Saints are yet to show signs of improving significantly under successor Mauricio Pellegrino.
But the same cannot be said of Leicester, who have begun to display glimpses of their sensational 2015-16 title-winning form since Puel replaced the sacked Craig Shakespeare in October.
The Foxes have now won four league matches in succession and are unbeaten in five, with their only defeats since September coming against heavyweights Liverpool and leaders Manchester City.
The result leaves Leicester eighth, comfortably clear of the relegation threat that prompted them to dispense with Shakespeare's services, while the Saints are eight points worse off in 11th.
Up next for in-form Leicester is the visit of Roy Hodgson's improving Crystal Palace to the King Power Stadium on Saturday, when Pellegrino will hope for a response from his team away to champions Chelsea.
The dominant tone was set in the 11th minute as Mahrez was afforded too much space by Southampton, the Algeria international recovering from a slip, advancing toward goal unchallenged and unleashing a low strike from outside the area that nestled in the bottom corner of Fraser Forster's net.
9 - Riyad Mahrez has been directly involved in nine goals in 17 games in the Premier League this season (five goals & four assists); the same as in the whole of last season (six goals & three assists in 36 apps). Revamp. pic.twitter.com/5imlrZdFze-- OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 13, 2017
The Foxes deservedly made it 2-0 six minutes later, Christian Fuchs' shot from the outside the area striking Steven Davis and then falling for Okazaki, whose close-range finish left Forster helpless.
And the match was over as a contest when Leicester moved 3-0 ahead in the 38th minute.
The unlikely figure of centre-back Harry Maguire controlled Mahrez's free-kick, turned on the right side of the box and delivered a tempting pass across the face of goal to the back post, where Andy King arrived unmarked to slide the ball home.
Southampton struggled to muster a response in the second half, until a Ryan Bertrand free-kick in the 60th minute forced Kasper Schmeichel to concede a corner, Yoshida succeeding in nodding the ball home as Dusan Tadic tried to claim a touch.
Schmeichel was called into action again six minutes later, diving at full stretch to deny Charlie Austin at point-blank range from Bertrand's cross.
The hosts' hopes of staging a recovery were dashed three minutes later, though, when a misplaced Cedric Soares pass gifted possession to Mahrez, who quickly played in Jamie Vardy down the right, Okazaki emphatically hooking home the subsequent cutback at the near post.
The disappointment of conceding during their best spell of the game robbed Southampton of all momentum, leaving Pellegrino to watch helplessly from the dugout as the home team limped to the final whistle with barely a whimper.