Saints 0-3 Manchester City
Steven Davis is a key man in the Saints line-up, so it was good to have him back to face Champions Manchester City, with Long sacrificed to accommodate the extra midfielder. However, Saints found it difficult to adjust to the step up in class of opponent compared with recent fixtures, and the first twenty minutes were a bit of a lesson. Aguero’s theatrical dive under what was clearly shown to be a foul challenge by Fonte cost him a booking as well as missing out on a penalty opportunity, but Saints were still holding City and actually carved out the clearest chance of the half: Pellè couldn’t get onto Schneiderlin’s cross while Hart was down quickly to push Davis’s follow up away.
Even after this improvement in fortunes, the home side could still have been behind at the break when Forster had to be rescued by Alderweireld after he failed to block a shot from Jovetic. Schneiderlin had picked up an injury, and the comparative difference in strength and experience on the bench between the two teams was revealed by Alderweireld having to cover in midfield as Yoshida came on at the back. An early caution for Wanyama was also a setback for Saints engine room, but it was just slight individual errors that led to the opening goal: Alderweireld’s pass to Clyne might have been straighter, the full back’s tackle under pressure might have been stronger and Wanyama’s touch on the edge of the box certainly should have been less heavy, but it all led to Aguero setting up Touré for a shot that was deflected before beating Forster’s dive.
Long came on for Mané to some effect, including a run that had to be stopped by a cautionable foul by Mangala, the defender’s second yellow card. City, though, now had a formidable wall of Milner Lampard and Touré to confront Southampton’s revamped middle section and a misplaced pass by Davis led to Lampard stroking home the second before Saints could make any impact with the extra man.
Forster had another “I can’t go for that” moment but rescued himself by thwarting Aguero with a save, but the Argentine, now operating as a lone forward, eventually set up another chance, taken by Clichy, to finish the scoring in the 89th minute. As usual, Ronnie K summed it all up accurately, even if the words don’t always come out in the right order: “The quality of the opponent is high and they will punish you for what maybe other teams not can do.”
LSSC Man of the Match: Toby Alderweireld, despite playing a small part in the opening goal. He’s a great defender and wasn’t out of place in an unfamiliar second half role.