SOUTHAMPTON 0, MANCHESTER CITY 3
Aguero booked for diving despite replays showing a clear penalty
Yaya Toure, Frank Lampard, and Gael Clichy secure points in the second half
Red card for Eliaquim Mangala and late hamstring injury for Vincent Kompany as City finish with 9 men
Second half strikes by Yaya Toure, Frank Lampard and Gael Clichy were enough to help Manchester City beat Southampton at St Marys and close the gap with Chelsea at the top of the league to just six points.
City leapfrogged the Saints into second place on 27 points after a deserved but hard fought victory as they finished the game with nine men after losing Eliaquim Mangala to a second half red card and Vincent Kompany to a late injury with no more substitutes allowed.
City manager Manuel Pellegrini made four changes from the dramatic mid-week win over Bayern Munich, with Stevan Jovetic, Yaya Toure, Fernandinho, and Pablo Zabaleta coming back into the side whilst James Milner, Frank Lampard, Fernando and Bacary Sagna made way.
In-form striker Sergio Aguero was aggrieved when he was tripped by Jose Fonte in the ninth minute and saw referee Mike Jones flash the yellow card at him for simulation – his first ever booking for diving in the Premier League.
Aguero, it would appear, had gone down too theatrically for Jones despite the clear trip by the Saints full back.
The Argentine striker never gave up, however, and pulled the ball back early in the second half for Toure to smash home via a slight deflection by Toby Alderweireld which left Saints ‘keeper Fraser Forster wrong-footed.
Aguero had been superb throughout and did everything in the match except score, going on to miss a presentable chance from a James Milner corner in the 70th minute under pressure from Nathaniel Clyne.
Southampton brought on Shane Long to try and rescue a point and Long soon had the City defence in disarray as he robbed Toure and raced towards the City defence only to be brought down by Eliaquim Mangala who subsequently had to walk after being shown his second yellow card of the game.
Second half nerves began jangling for City before Frank Lampard stepped up and dragged City on to victory.
Lampard, on as a City substitute, once again showed the quality that has seen rumours of a loan extension from parent club New York City FC grow in intensity recently, drilled home from the edge of the box with ten minutes to go after fellow sub Milner had won the ball and crossed for his former England team-mate.
Forster prevented a third for City when Aguero ran clear of the Southampton defenders but couldn’t evade the long arm of England’s second choice ‘keeper as the Saints ‘keeper saved.
Southampton finally upped a gear with nothing to lose but Graziano Pelle couldn’t capitalise after City were finally stretched out by some quick Saints movement.
But City made sure of victory as Aguero squared the ball for Clichy who notched his first City goal with a sidefoot into the roof of the net with two minutes to go.
The points were safe but there was more drama to come as Vincent Kompany opted to leave the pitch with what looked like an injury problem after Clichy’s goal as they finished with nine men.
UPDATE: City boss Manuel Pellegrini is hopeful that Kompany can be fit to play in the away game at Sunderland on Wednesday night but hinted that Martin Demichelis was available and that young Belgian defender Dedryck Boyata has been playing well recently, adding that Bacary Sagna could fill at in centre back if required.
Serbian defender Matija Nastasic, 21, is also on City’s books but continues to be overlooked by Pellegrini and has only appeared in the Community Shield for City this season. Pellegrini’s recent statement suggests that his role as a forgotten man in City’s reserves will continue.
Nastasic was told to find another club in the summer and, although no move has so far emerged, could be an attractive prospect to other clubs looking for defensive cover despite his relatively high wages. Arsenal are just one of the clubs rumoured to be looking at the Serbian who could be available for as little as £5m in the January transfer window.