MAN CITY 2, SOUTHAMPTON 0
Manchester City finished the season with a sixth straight win but it was not enough to retain their Barclays Premier League title.
Runners-up City ended the campaign on a high as goals from Frank Lampard, on his farewell appearance in English football, and golden-boot winner Sergio Aguero saw off spirited Southampton at the Etihad Stadium.
And though City were eight points behind champions Chelsea, they at least bowed out on a victorious note to provide renewed of a championship challenge in 2015-16.
Manager Manuel Pellegrini was in buoyant mood after the game reiterating his view that he does not believe Chelsea possess more quality.
He said: “I think this season we lost the title because we lost at least nine points against teams in relegation places.
“In our two games against Chelsea, I think we were the better team, but the difference was Chelsea were more consistent and did not lose easy points. I didn’t think they are a better team in terms of quality.”
Pellegrini added that the substitutions of Yaya Toure and James Milner was not meant to be their farewells claiming both were tiring after returning from injury lay offs.
But City’s manager explained that he anticipates there will be changes of personnel in the summer.
“Teams always need changes and new faces, but the only player going is Frank Lampard,” he said.
And Pellegrini also had words of praise for Lampard saying: “I spoke before the game with the whole squad saying it was important to finish here by winning the game.
“It was also important for Frank and he deserved his farewell from all the people, the fans and for him to score was the perfect goodbye. He has had a brilliant career and is a great person.”
Pellegrini also praised Aguero who has scored 32 goals for City in the current campaign saying this is the first time in his career that he has won a golden boot which was important for him.
City’s manager says it is impossible to compare Aguero with any other player and believes there is more to come and he will become an even better player.
Pellegrini is confident that he will remain City manager.
“See you next season, I hope,” were his parting words to the press.
While City were assured of runners-up spot, Saints still had plenty to play for as they had an outside chance of winning a place in next season’s Europa League.
And the fact they needed a win to achieve an European place was reflected in their attacking line up which included three front players, Graziano Pelle, Shane Long and Sadio Mane.
Lampard captained City on his farewell appearance before heading Stateside to join New York City FC.
City also fielded effectively their strongest line up, though Fernando Reges and Samir Nasri were both ruled out through injury.
There was plenty to early endeavour from both sides, but little in terms of quality as they failed to create a meaningful chance.
It took 20 minutes before either keeper was extended. Then Joe Hart made a comfortable diving save to deny Toby Alderweireld.
City ought to have taken the lead moments later when David Silva released Aguero who blazed over with the goal inviting.
They went close again when Toure’s initial shot was parried by Saints’ keeper Kelvin Davis who blocked Aguero’s follow-up shot which rebounded back to him as he fired well over the bar.
The breakthrough came in the 31st minute when James Milner crossed from the right for Lampard to score a parting goal as he ran from deep to fired high into the roof of the net from 12 yards, his seventh goal of the season for City and 177th in the Premier League.
Moments later Aguero ought to have made it 2-0 as he burst clean through only for Davis to make a stunning save.
And Davis was called into action to make another stupendous stop, this time to prevent Alderweireld putting through his own goal.
Saints created a couple of decent chances early in the second half only for players to stray offside as they kept threatening to conjure an equaliser.
Shane Long also brought two diving saves from Hart, whose clean sheet earned him the Premier League’s golden glove award for the fourth time and Mane also headed at the keeper as City’s lead remained precarious.
Lampard was replaced by Jesus Navas with 13 minutes left as he left the field to a standing ovation from the City and Saints’ fans and embraces by Pellegrini and his management team on his farewell.
It was also the same when Milner went off not long after as he, too, may have played his last game for City.
City doubled their lead with two minutes left. Navas’ shot was blocked and looped to the far post for Eliaquim Mangala to head back across the face of goal for Aguero to nod in his 26th Premier League goal of the season and 32nd in all competitions.