Brendan Rodgers was delighted by the way Leicester dug deep to secure a hard-fought victory against Southampton and go second in the Premier League.
James Maddison’s thumping first-half strike put the Foxes on course for victory at an empty King Power Stadium, where Saints had made life tough from the outset.
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s absentee-hit side continued to push after the break as Leicester continued to flounder in front of goal, with Harvey Barnes wrapping up a 2-0 win in stoppage time.
“It was always going to be a really hard-fought game,” manager Rodgers said. “Southampton are a very good team, they’ve got good players, they work very hard.
“I thought we were too passive in the first 20-25 minutes. We weren’t running hard enough, getting to second balls and we weren’t aggressive enough.
“But then we started to find our way into the game, started to get around it and we talked about just doing the dirty side much better because then that allows you then to sustain your attacks more.
“Youri (Tielemans) ends up playing a great pass and James does what he does best – lovely bodywork and then finishes really well.
“(At) half-time we just reinforced it. Not every game of football in the Premier League is all about nice football. You’ve got to earn the right in the Premier League.
“This is a league where you’ve got to fight like hell in every game to get the result and second half we were much, much better at that.
“We were aggressive, created lots of opportunities and worked tirelessly in the game, so overall a very good win. Could have had more goals but delighted with three points.”
Gareth Southgate was in the stands on a night when English talent like James Justin, Barnes and Maddison impressed.
The latter superbly rolled Jack Stephens and kept his cool from an acute angle to open the scoring, before handing out imaginary handshakes in a light-hearted response to focus on celebrations amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Listen, we all want football to continue and we all have a responsibility to do that,” Leicester manager Rodgers said.
“My players here are absolutely brilliant. Everything they’ve done to be as professional as they can at what has been a difficult time.
“What I said to them was ‘look, there’s a lot of negativity around celebrations so can we turn it into a positive?’
“We obviously have to score but when we score just try and use it as a positive and let’s see if we can social distance in our celebrations.
“But, of course, I am happy that they can score and can celebrate. I think people watch it wanted to celebrate it as well in the right way.”
While disappointed to have lost on the road for the first time since the opening day of the season, Southampton boss Hasenhuttl could not have asked anymore from his absentee-hit side.
“To be honest, it was the maximum we can give today for our style,” said the Austrian, who was without the likes of Danny Ings, Jannik Vestergaard and Oriol Romeu.
“I think we also had a few chances. The quality of the finish was the difference, I think.
“Maddison’s (shot) was fantastic, outstanding, and ours were not always the best but we also had a few situations where the goalkeeper made good saves.
“We did the maximum we can do at the moment with the players we have, with the injuries we are facing with missing players.
“It’s the maximum we can do with these players, so I am proud of my team because they tried everything today against a strong side.
“We forced them to have a good performance against us, especially in the first half we showed it was still possible to compete with them. We had more chances than they had in the first half.
“But the maximum we can do in the end it’s normal when you’re run down and you take more risks then they counter.”