Saints 3-1 Manchester City
Ivory Coast’s below par performance in the African Cup of Nations freed Yaya Touré to be available for Manchester City at St. Mary’s, but arguably he found his clubmates even less committed to the cause than his compatriots.
For Saints, Ramirez and Shaw both succumbed to injuries that had kept them out of midweek international action, but Clyne was available – crucially, given the nature of our squad.
Most importantly of all, though, was the admirable attitude of our players to the demands being made of them by the Pochinetto regime, and their lively opening was rewarded with an early goal that featured Puncheon and Lambert in the build up, and Puncheon in the execution after Rodriguez had failed.
This odds-busting display was enhanced by a second goal, again involving Lambert but with a huge assist by England stopper Hart who let the striker’s shot though both hands and legs; the willing Davis was there to force the ball home.
Saints were continuing to press when City forced their way back to the game: an attempt to play a corner deep to set up Fox for a volley allowed Dzeko to intercept, and with the core of our team stranded upfield, the visitors moved the ball impressively and eventually set up Dzeko for a finish that was either supremely subtle or just plain fortunate.
A two goal lead had not been flattering Saints and it could have been restored had Touré been penalised for an ungainly shove on Rodriguez just before the break.
Fans prepared themselves for a second half onslaught but Lambert soon led a break that ended up with Puncheon shooting over, and then found himself running clear again in a similar position. This time Rickie chose to pick out Barry with his cross, but groans immediately turned to cheers as a second England player fouled up big time – at least we must assume he didn’t mean to glide an exquisite finish past his own keeper.
Still City struggled to make any impact, and although Saints seemed to tire, timely substitutions kept the momentum going, and a terrific performance was at last rewarded with three points.
LSSC Man of the Match: Jack Cork, but with every man playing his part – even the relatively underworked Boruc with a save to preserve the two goal cushion, while Lambert just about managed as many assists for Saints as City’s international stars did.