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Enzo Maresca delighted as ‘fantastic’ Leicester move to brink of promotion

By Sports Desk April 23, 2024

Enzo Maresca praised his Leicester players for the 5-0 thrashing of Southampton that put the Foxes a win away from clinching automatic promotion.

Ghana winger Abdul Fatawu scored three of them, with Wilfred Ndidi and Jamie Vardy also on target.

Leicester need only to win at Preston on Monday, or at home to Blackburn on the final day, to make sure they will finish ahead of at least one of Leeds or Ipswich. Indeed, if Leeds lose at QPR on Friday Leicester will be up before they take to the field again.

Maresca, in his first season as City manager, said: “I don’t think that was the best performance of the season but the performance was fantastic, very good on and off the ball.

“We could have been better on the ball but we are all very happy because the opposition are a fantastic team.

“The good thing about tonight is that now we know that with one win we get promoted.

“It was a good feeling at the end, the fans have been fantastic.”

Fatawu, on loan from Sporting Lisbon, opened the scoring in the 25th minute when Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall played him through. The 20-year-old might have been offside but the flag stayed down. Southampton manager Russell Martin was also aggrieved that a challenge on Saints striker Che Adams by City defender Wout Faes was not given as a foul by referee Robert Madley.

The second half belonged to Leicester though, with Ndidi charging in to head home a cross from Stephy Mavididi to double the lead.

Fatawu struck again in the 75th minute when he accepted a pass from substitute Hamza Choudhury before smashing past goalkeeper Alex McCarthy.

Fatawu set up Vardy for a well-taken fourth and completed the rout with an emphatic finish after the former England striker returned the favour.

Maresca, however, joked: “I just said ‘next game you will be on the bench’ because with Abdul and young players especially, after three goals he is already thinking he is a top player.”

Saints – famously beaten 9-0 by Leicester in the Premier League in 2019 – must now pick themselves up for the play-offs barring an extraordinary combination of results and scorelines.

Martin made it clear he would not be doing that for them though, so disappointed was he with their capitulation.

“The players need to show a bit of love for each other and pick each other up, I’m fed up of doing that,” he said.

“They need to feel some pain – the same pain that I’m feeling right now.

“Rolling over like that, it’s actually pathetic, losing 5-0. They have to rally round as a group and show some care for each other.

“I did not like what I saw from my team one bit at 2-0 down. Self-preservation, our body language and people throwing their hands up in the air.

“It surprised me actually. What can you do? I told them I didn’t like it.

“I told them Che Adams is out of contract this summer and the one person who has the excuse if he didn’t really want to be all in and not work hard for his team, but he did that more than anyone. So it was inexcusable for anyone else not to do that.

“The fans were amazing, they were still clapping at the end and deserved better than that.”

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