Goals from Kevin de Bruyne, Fabian Delph and Aleksandar Kolarov helped the Citizens get back to winning ways, with a comfortable 3-1 victory against Ronald Koeman’s men – who started slowly and were consequently punished.
The hosts were eager to get back to winning ways after defeats against Liverpool and Juventus within the space of a week – and got on the front foot from the referee’s first whistle at the Ethiad.
City begin quickly, and get their reward
Raheem Sterling came close to breaking the deadlock after just a minute, with a sharp one-two between himself and Yaya Touré on the edge of the box. The 20-year-old curled an effort goalwards, but goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg made a good reflex save down to his right to parry the ball away to safety.
Saints punished for sloppy start
Southampton didn’t start particularly quickly, and they could have scored once more after five minutes. Aleksandar Kolarov‘s free-kick swerved towards the top corner and Stekelenburg’s save was good, but the ball skipped off the slick turf. Between Nicolas Otámendi and Fernandinho, neither could turn the ball in from close-range.
City did eventually break the deadlock though, through great work by Raheem Sterling. He dispossessed Maya Yoshida of the ball near the centre circle, and punished the visitors to good effect. He accelerated forward with pace and purpose, driving into the area before an unselfish cutback fell neatly into the path of Kevin de Bruyne. The talented Belgian was left with only a simple tap-in, and this time, Stekelenburg could get nowhere near it.
Stekelenburg called into action
A sloppy pass gifted City another opportunity to find the back of the net, with a counter-attacking move being snuffed out by the sharp reflexes of Stekelenburg, once more. Sergio Agüero was inches away from doubling the hosts’ lead, instead, his effort on-goal was thwarted and trickled out of play for a corner-kick as the experienced Dutchman came rushing off his line to intercept the ball.
The resulting set-piece was poorly defended but the visitors were let off as a header flashed wide of the mark. In the 20th minute though, the lead was doubled. Fabian Delph‘s thunderous effort took a deflection off Virgil van Dijk near the penalty spot – spinning past Stekelenburg into the corner of the net. On his first start for the sky Blues, the former Aston Villa captain marked it with a goal, and City were fully in control.
Chances aplenty at the Ethiad
It could have been very different if van Dijk’s rasping effort did not cannon off the crossbar a minute later, though. After a promising passing spell near the edge of the area, the centre-back let fly and second-choice goalkeeper Willy Caballero dived helplessly as the strike seemed destined for the top corner.
Sterling fired over the bar whilst Shane Long stung Caballero’s gloves with the first-half’s action coming to an eventual close. Two-nil down with plenty of football left to play, Southampton were behind but certainly not out of the contest itself.
Long’s effort made for good viewing
Whatever Ronald Koeman said to his players in the dressing room, it must have worked. Just five minutes into the second-half, the deficit was halved in effective fashion. Sadio Mané delivered a teasing cross into the box, and Long was sharp to meet the ball with a sweetly-connected header, giving Caballero no chance from close range.
2-1, and it was game on again.
Game on again – within an instant
Tadic came close with a deft chip from close range, before Long saw his powerful half-volley parried away by Caballero as the visitors were certainly beginning to turn the screw attacking-wise, for the first real period of the match itself.
Agüero gave the home supporters a scare as he went down clutching his ankle in pain after falling awkwardly following an aerial challenge in the area. He limped off the pitch, being replaced by Wilfried Bony – but later concerns were relieved as the knock was described as a minor one.
Neatly-worked team goal seals all three points
In his absence, a well-crafted team goal sealed all three points with twenty minutes to go. Another stop from Caballero ensured Tadic was unable to level proceedings, as the Serbian’s curling drive was creeping towards the far corner.
At the other end, Kolarov got himself on the scoresheet in some style too. Sterling passed the ball onto Bony in the area, his backflick fell to the path of de Bruyne to his right. Instead of taking a shot for himself, de Bruyne cooly flicked the ball up in the air for Kolarov – who needed no invitation to shoot – and despite having two men on the goalline, his powerful effort arrowed into the bottom corner.
Both sides made substitutions with the clock ticking down, with the notable alteration seeing David Silva being introduced into the fray with fifteen minutes left to play. Having been sidelined for six weeks after an injury he’d picked up on international duty, the midfield maestro was back and greeted to a warm round of applause around Eastlands.
A positive learning experience
Mané and Bony both had decent chances to score for either side, but the scoreline remained 3-1 and it was ultimately a deserved victory for Manchester City.
Despite their much-improved second-half performance, the damage was already inflicted from Southampton’s point of view, and it’ll be a positive learning experience – they cannot afford to give away possession and as many chances as they allowed City to create in the first 45.