SOUTHAMPTON — This was tight, tense clash as Southampton – Manchester City was end-to-end, but Raheem Sterling’s first half goal was enough for Pep Guardiola’s side to seal all three points.
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Ralph Hasenhuttl’s Saints went close on multiple occasions as they pushed City all the way, although his biggest concern will be losing Danny Ings to injury.
The win moves City to fifth place, eight points behind leaders Liverpool with a game in-hand.
Three things we learned – Live analysis from St Mary’s
1. Smart City play out of Saints’ press: Man City showed their class as they played out of Saints’ high-press well. A few passes centrally shut Southampton’s pressing down, and City had so many counter-attacking chances. Guardiola showed Saints plenty of respect as his side sat deep and hung on for the win late on, but this was a savvy display as they did just enough to get over the line.
2. City wasteful, once again: Despite another really good defensive display (they’ve conceded once in their last eight games in all competitions) the big problem was finishing off chances. Again. City had Sergio Aguero on the bench but didn’t risk him, and Ferran Torres, Bernardo Silva, Riyad Mahrez and Kevin de Bruyne all failed to make the most of good chances. City have improved drastically at the back, but their lack of goals in attack will concern Guardiola.
3. Ings injury a concern: Speaking of concern, Saints will be concerned by having to sub off Danny Ings in the first half. Ings, 28, went down clutching his left knee just before half time and he came straight off, as it looked like a hamstring or knee problem. He sat in the stands for the second half and look pretty comfortable. That said, Ings started three games in a week which was a bit risky given his injury issues.
Man of the Match: John Stones – A few brilliant clearances and tackles as City recorded yet another shutout. What a comeback season he is having alongside Ruben Dias. Aymeric Laporte will be back soon, but Stones could now become a regular.
Saints started brightly as they pressed Man City high and had a few crosses cleared, while at the other end Kevin de Bruyne had a shot deflected wide. Joao Cancelo’s long-range shot is pushed wide by Alex McCarthy, while Rodri had a goal disallowed for offside after finishing at the back post.
City then took the lead when they were on top as De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva combined on the right and the former crossed for Sterling to sweep home the opener.
A few big chances arrived for Saints before the break as Walcott’s shot was pushed away by Ederson, and Oriol Romeu’s rebound was blocked following a superb 60-yard cross-field pass from Jannik Vestergaard to set up the move.
Soon after Adams couldn’t connect properly as Saints piled on the pressure, as Djenepo then found Walcott and Ings headed his cross wide, as he was clipped by a high foot from Ruben Dias as he got his effort away but VAR didn’t intervene as Saints wanted a penalty kick. From the corner Vestergaard headed over and just before half time Ings went off with an injury for the hosts.
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Ferran Torres whipped a shot just wide for Man City right at the start of the second half, and McCarthy then denied a clear chance with a brave save down low.
A couple of big moments then arrived as there were calls for a handball against Sterling, but the ball bounced up off his knee and hit his arm. No penalty after a VAR check.
Redmond was then played in but fell over as he went to hit his shot, as he made a big difference after coming on as the home fans were on their feet applauding the effort from their team.
Late on the game was stretched as Southampton had chances through Adams, but Riyad Mahrez twice went close as City should have wrapped up the win more comfortably.