Claude Puel insisted his bullish pitch-invasion celebrations at Leicester’s last-ditch win at St Mary’s had nothing to do with his Southampton sacking.
The Foxes manager stormed the pitch with some energetic double fist-pumping when Harry Maguire’s low drive handed his side a 2-1 Premier League victory on the south coast.
Puel could have been forgiven for relishing a revenge victory over former employers Southampton, who sacked him in 2017 after guiding the club to an eighth-place Premier League finish and the League Cup final.
Ryan Bertrand’s thunderbolt drive had Saints ahead, only for Demarai Gray to level four minutes later. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg was sent off late on for a second booking and then Maguire bagged the winner in added time.
Asked if his out-of-character celebration was motivated by his Saints sacking, Puel replied: “No, no, no: nothing about this.
“Because I have a lot of respect for all the people working at Southampton.
“It was just about the circumstance of the game, and it was a tough game, difficult to play against this team and we have had good desire and a good reaction to keep our calm and to play the second part of the game and to win this time is a fantastic feeling.
“I’m happy for my players, for the fans, to get something. It’s justice.”
Quizzed again on his raucous celebrations, the usually straight-laced Puel said there is always a time and a place to let loose.
“Yeah but sometimes it’s good, you know,” said Puel, of his celebrations. “I was happy for my players, for the squad, because it was a tough game.
“I think we played a very good team with strong pressing and quality on the ground.
“We won this game with our mentality, strong spirit and personality. We kept going after conceding the goal. We have good confidence in our play and I’m happy with this.
“It was fantastic from Harry, he took the space and then had the chance to shoot in the final third.
“It’s perfect, and just in time of course. I’m happy for him and the team, it’s a good reward, a tough game. I think it’s a good reward, but I think we deserved it.”
Southampton have now won just three of their last 28 Premier League games at St Mary’s and are yet to claim a victory this term.
Boss Mark Hughes insisted he felt his side deserved to win the game – and that he was even happy to see Maguire shoot on goal, until the ball crossed the goal-line that is.
“Well we didn’t deserve that, I thought it was a really strong performance by us,” said Hughes.
“The question was could we sustain that right through to the end of the game.
“At half-time I felt we were worthy of maybe being ahead at that point, I thought our performance deserved that.
“I demanded that we set off at the same intensity in the second half, we did that, and Ryan scored a fantastic goal.
“And at that point I never thought we were in danger of losing the game.
“The sending-off was damaging to us clearly. We had to move guys around just to be blocking the game out.
“You can’t really believe that it’s gone in [Maguire’s goal] if we’re honest.
“I felt we were the better team but we’re the team that’s lost unfortunately.”