Five-star Leicester close on promotion as Southampton left facing play-offs



Posted Wednesday, April 24, 2024 by PA

Five-star Leicester close on promotion as Southampton left facing play-offs

Leicester are a win from clinching automatic promotion after a hat-trick from Abdul Fatawu plus goals from Wilfred Ndidi and Jamie Vardy in a 5-0 home thrashing of Southampton, whose top-two hopes were effectively ended.

The Foxes, relegated last season, can confirm an instant Premier League return by winning at Preston on Monday or, failing that, at home to Blackburn on the final day.

Elevation could even come quicker than that if second-placed Leeds lose at QPR on Friday.

Leicester are now four points clear of Leeds with both sides having two games remaining. They are also five points in front of Ipswich, who have three games still to play.

Saints remain six points behind Leeds – their final-day opponents – but only the most optimistic of fans are expecting anything other than play-off qualification, particularly with their goal difference now inferior by 19.

Fatawu broke the deadlock in the 25th minute. Wout Faes challenged Saints striker Che Adams near the halfway line and as both men fell to the ground referee Robert Madley waved for play to continue, allowing Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall to send Fatawu goalwards.

The winger might have been offside but no flag was raised and he evaded Kyle Walker-Peters to slot beyond McCarthy and celebrate with an acrobatic flip. Saints manager Russell Martin was unhappy, complaining to the fourth official that Adams had been fouled.

Martin’s mood did not improve when Joe Rothwell had to go off five minutes before the break, with Will Smallbone replacing him.

Saints appealed in vain for a penalty early in the second half when David Brooks went down as James Justin challenged but the visitors were already looking more dangerous.

Fatawu was off target with a speculative effort but Leicester doubled their lead in the 62nd minute through Ndidi. Stephy Mavididi supplied the cross from the edge of the box on the left and the midfielder came charging in to head past Alex McCarthy from close range.

Victory was confirmed in the 75th minute when man-of-the-match Fatawu conjured up the best goal of the night. The winger accepted a pass from substitute Hamza Choudhury, cut in at pace from the right and unleashed an unstoppable shot across and beyond McCarthy.

Saints subsided and Vardy competed the rout in the 79th minute, clipping first-time past McCarthy with Fatawu this time the supplier.

Fatawu claimed the match ball in the 81st minute when a slick passing move saw Vardy tee him up for another shot beyond McCarthy.

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