LONDON, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Two goals of real quality by James Maddison and Harvey Barnes, one early on and one in stoppage time, secured a 2-0 win over Southampton that put Leicester City second in the Premier League on Saturday.
But what the team did in between to repel a Southampton side that beat champions Liverpool in their last game was arguably just as impressive and showed why Leicester should not be ruled out from the title race.
The hosts showed great defensive solidity and game-management to keep Southampton at arm’s length as they pocketed the points and extended their unbeaten run to five games.
They moved to within a point of leaders Manchester United who take on Liverpool, who Leicester vaulted above, on Sunday.
Leicester have received plenty of plaudits for the style of their play since Brendan Rodgers took charge.
In Youri Tielemans, Barnes, Maddison and Marc Albrighton they have some cultured midfielders providing the ammunition for Jamie Vardy while Wilfred Ndidi offers them the kind of defensive shield that N’Golo Kante provided when they won their fairytale title in 2016.
Rodgers, who went close to a title while at Liverpool and had Leicester riding high this time last year, knows that while expansive football wins admirers, a collective work ethic and the ability to grind out results is priceless.
“Not every game is about nice football. You’ve got to earn the right in the Premier League. This is a league you’ve got to fight like hell for every result,” he said.
Rodgers picked out Albrighton, like Vardy a veteran of Leicester’s title-winning team, as a prime example of a player sacrificing himself for the team.
“Marc is a great example to every winger in the club that talent alone isn’t enough,” he said.
“You have to be able to run, you have to be able to work, you can’t carry anyone in this league.”
The games are coming thick and fast with Chelsea at home on Tuesday and keeper Kasper Schmeichel knows that in such an unpredictable season, they cannot afford to look too far ahead.
“I don’t look at the table. It doesn’t mean anything at this stage. We’ll see when it comes to the business end,” he said.
“It’s a big couple of weeks for the club. It was important to start with three points. The league’s so tight that six points can be the difference between first or second and seventh or eighth.” (Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Daniel Wallis)
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