English Premiership

Mahrez double keeps Leicester afloat

2015-05-09 19:10
Nigel Pearson

Leicester - Leicester moved a step closer to completing their great escape from Premier League relegation as Riyad Mahrez's double sealed a vital 2-0 win over Southampton on Saturday.

Nigel Pearson's side had been bottom of the table for 140 days this season, but they are now three points clear of the relegation zone with two games left after Mahrez inspired their sixth win in their last seven matches.

The Algerian playmaker struck twice in the first 19 minutes at the King Power Stadium and a victory at relegation rivals Sunderland next weekend could guarantee Leicester's survival.

It was an especially sweet result for Pearson, who was sacked by Southampton in 2008 and has endured a barrage of criticism for some of his bizarre touchline and press conference antics this season.

Southampton's fourth defeat in their last six matches leaves them in seventh place as they limp to a disappointing end to a season that promised more.

Pearson's team made their early pressure pay in the seventh minute when Mahrez evaded a weak challenge from Steven Davis and drove in a low long-range shot that bobbled into the corner for his first Leicester goal since December.

The joy of that goal was short-lived as midfielder Matty James was stretchered off with a nasty looking injury five minutes later after collapsing in agony while chasing Southampton's Ryan Bertrand.

James was in obvious discomfort when he left the pitch, but Leicester's players managed to keep their composure and added a crucial second goal in the 19th minute.

Mahrez had only scored twice for the Foxes all season and he doubled that tally with a close-range effort that went in off the bar after Jamie Vardy took Leonardo Ulloa's flick and pulled the ball back to the unmarked Algerian.

Although Southampton still harboured hopes of securing a Europa League place via a top-six finish, there was little urgency from the lacklustre visitors.

In his role just behind the front two, Mahrez was the catalyst for all the best Leicester moments and his perfectly-weighted pass to Vardy presented the striker with a golden opportunity to make it three, but Saints goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga denied kept out his low shot.

A rare threat from the visitors saw Toby Alderweireld's free-kick tipped over by Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel just before half-time.

But Leicester's relentless pressing kept the visitors off balance in the second half and Esteban Cambiasso had a powerful drive saved by Gazzaniga.

A dipping effort from Sadio Mane forced Schmeichel into action with an agile save, while Cambiasso shot into the side-netting at the other end.

Ulloa limped off holding his hamstring late on, but Leicester had done enough to keep their escape act on track.

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