Morgan takes Leicester closer to EPL title
Captain Fantastic is too old, too big and too stubborn to lose title now
(Wes Morgan 38)
At times, Wes Morgan doesn't look like an English Premier League footballer, let alone the skipper of title challengers.
Leicester City's centre back walks the line between "muscular" and "portly", often resembling the last kid left in the school playground when two sides are selecting players.
But he was the first among imperious equals last night, adding yet another glorious, uplifting storyline that continues to push the boundaries of credibility.
The elderly veteran of lower league football turned title-chasing captain now has another couple of accolades in a surreal campaign - scorer and match-winner.
Morgan is 32. His waistline most certainly isn't.
And yet, he leapt like an anorexic salmon to reach Christian Fuchs' excellent cross to head in his first goal of the season against Southampton last night.
Leicester are now seven points clear. There are only six games left and even fewer excuses to deny the dream, to cast aspersions on the romantics.
Morgan rose head and shoulders above the Saints' defence to bury the scepticism a little deeper in the psyche.
It's getting harder to deny the inevitable now. The league is heading into the land of make-believe, and men like Morgan, the latest in a long line of unlikely heroes at Leicester, are making it happen.
His goal was against the run of the play, but the header was not against the run of the season - just the latest head-shaking example of an irrational season that makes even less sense as it draws to a euphoric conclusion.
After the international break and, more pertinently, Tottenham's draw with Liverpool on Saturday, Leicester kicked off in subdued fashion, not overawed by the occasion, but certainly wary of the expectation.
In truth, they were fortunate to take the lead and even luckier not to fall behind.
Should the Foxes reach nirvana, they must remember the moment this tense contest woke from its slumber.
Saints manager Ronald Koeman had shuffled the pack and for half an hour, it looked as if he had pulled out a tactical ace.
The visitors' 3-5-2, with an extra body in midfield, largely curtailed Leicester's counter-attacking forays, with Danny Drinkwater and N'Golo Kante almost cancelled out by Jordy Clasie and Victor Wanyama.
Claudio Ranieri's confused Foxes, deprived of both space and momentum, found themselves on the end of the kind of counter-attacking surge that they've patented this season.
Sadio Mane, collecting Graziano Pelle's fine pass, raced through the middle, rounded Kaspar Schmeichel and sent his shot goalwards in the 33rd minute.
Argentina had Maradona's hand of God. Leicester had Danny Simpson's arm of good fortune. The handball was accidental, but denied a clear goal nonetheless. Southampton deserved a penalty.
Instead, they were 1-0 down five minutes later.
Morgan's outstanding header in the 38th minute defined Leicester's season - against expectations and stolen from a far-fetched comic book.
The Foxes are practically producing heart-warming sporting moments joy to order.
Southampton's noble 3-5-2 gamble had failed. Koeman reverted to a back four at half-time, introduced Dusan Tadic for the poor Matt Targett and the angry Saints immediately sought to right the perceived wrongs of the first half.
Suddenly, Leicester appeared nervous. Everyone's favourite fairy-tale characters are also human.
The closer they get, the greater the despair should they falter at such a late stage in the season.
By the 70th minute, the possession tipped 70-30 in the visitors' favour, but Morgan and Robert Huth defied both their age and mileage to stand firm.
FEET OF CLAY
Simpson should have earned his teammates a two-goal cushion in the 72nd minute, but the right back with an arm of good fortune proved to have feet of clay.
Jamie Vardy broke free in the box and pulled a cross back to Simpson who, from six metres out and with the goal wide open, hit a bobbling shot straight at Fraser Forster.
His shocking miss threatened to prove costly. The Saints dominated and deserved at least a point, but Leicester's back four turned into a awe-inspiring army of resistance.
Huth and Morgan rose above the parapet time and again to face down the onslaught. Leicester's skipper refused to falter.
More than any other in a blue jersey, Morgan has come to define the underdogs' spirited, defiant rise to the summit.
The skipper is no Superman. He's every man, another ordinary footballer at Leicester contributing to an extraordinary reality.
The swinging, singing home fans summed up the Foxes' heroics at the final whistle. They shall not be moved.
And nor will the magnificent Morgan.
5: Leicester have won five of their last six matches by a 1-0 scoreline.
- LEICESTER: Kasper Schmeichel, Danny Simpson, Wes Morgan, Robert Huth, Christian Fuchs, Riyad Mahrez (Demarai Gray 78), Danny Drinkwater, N’Golo Kante, Marc Albrighton (Nathan Dyer 89), Jamie Vardy, Shinji Okazaki (Leonardo Ulloa 63)
- SOUTHAMPTON: Fraser Forster, Cedric Soares, Virgil van Dijk, Jose Fonte, Ryan Bertrand, Victor Wanyama, Jordy Clasie (James Ward- Prowse 72), Steven Davis (Charlie Austin 72), Sadio Mane, Matt Targett (Dusan Tadic 45), Graziano Pelle
'Foxes really wanted it'
Leicester City match-winner Wes Morgan said desire had been the key ingredient, after his side sank Southampton 1-0 last night to move seven points clear in the Premier League.
The 32-year-old Jamaica centre back headed home a cross from Christian Fuchs in the 38th minute to end an 11-month goal drought and leave underdogs Leicester needing 12 points from their last six games to claim the title.
Second-place Tottenham Hotspur had inadvertently left the door open after drawing 1-1 at Liverpool on Saturday and Leicester captain Morgan said that he and his teammates had been determined to take advantage.
"We saw the (Spurs) game yesterday was a draw and wanted to make the most of our chance. We really wanted it today," he said at the King Power Stadium.
"I've been getting a lot of stick because I haven't scored all season, so it's great to shut them up.
"I was quite ill yesterday, but obviously I wanted to play."
Four wins will now suffice to deliver Leicester's first ever top-flight title and manager Claudio Ranieri urged his players to keep their feet on the ground over the run-in.
"Everyone is expecting something more for us and we are in the cloud, but we have to keep concentrating," said the Italian, who succeeded the sacked Nigel Pearson before the start of the season.
"We want to stay there and continue. If the others are better than us, then congratulations.
"We know it will be hard. In the next match, Sunderland will be fighting to survive.
"I don't want to think about champions. I want to focus on the match.
"There is a chance for us to be champions this season, but we have to be professional."
Southampton manager Ronald Koeman said that Ranieri's side would make deserving champions, but he felt that Leicester defenders Danny Simpson and Robert Huth had got away with penalty-box handballs in each half.
"For the third match in a row, we don't get a 100 per cent penalty - Stoke away, Liverpool at home, and today two penalties," said the Dutchman (left), whose side remain in seventh place.
"The big one is when Sadio Mane's shot hits Danny Simpson and it is a red card and a penalty.
"I don't think that they (referees) are against Southampton, but it is very strange."