MAN CITY 5, SOUTHAMPTON 2
Unstoppable Manchester City surged 14 points clear at the top of the Premier League with an ultimately comfortable home win against Southampton.
It was not without a few anxious moments for City, however, as Saints asked questions of the hosts in the opening period when they were the superior side.
Once City got back into their stride following Sunday’s derby defeat, they were at their imperious best.
Two goals apiece from Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez and one from goal machine Ilkay Gundogan made it 42 points for City in 2021 whereas Saints have managed only seven.
City, whose defence was the bedrock of the run of 21 straight victories, suddenly has begun to leak goals – four in the last two matches and they are four games without a clean sheet.
Overall, though, they have let in only 13 goals in 16 games in Manchester this season. Contrast that to Saints who have leaked 14 goals in two visits to the city.
That was nit-picking as City, with only nine league games remaining, will go 17 points clear on Saturday if they win at Fulham while second-placed United don’t play until Sunday.Embed from Getty Images
Guardiola admitted it was far from a stroll, despite the 5-2 scoreline, explaining. “They made us suffer at times. In general it was good. Another victory and we move on to Fulham. Southampton put a lot of players in the middle and made it very hard for us.
“They expose a lot which allowed us to counter. The quality of our players won the game – Riyad, Phil and Kevin.”
And of the penalty not given for the challenge on Foden, Guardiola added: “It is just incredible that penalty was not given. One day they are going to explain why. I do not understand it.
“It’s incredible that in four-and-a-half-years we have won everything ourselves. No-one has given us anything.”
Saints’ manager Ralph Hasenhuttl said: “We didn’t deserve to win as City had more chances than us.
“I wanted to see a brave performance and it was better than parking the bus and losing. We had very good moments, scored two goals, three when one was disallowed.
“I can live with the way we played, but not the result.”
Saints were back in Manchester five weeks after their nightmare 9-0 defeat at Old Trafford.
Guardiola made five changes from his side’s derby defeat by Manchester United on Sunday.
Able to select from a fully-fit squad, the Spaniard brought in Kyle Walker, Aymeric Laporte, Fernandinho, Bernardo Silva and Foden.
That saw Joao Cancelo, John Stones, Rodri, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus drop to the bench, where they were joined by Sergio Aguero.
Hasenhuttl went one better than Guardiola and named six changes following victory over Sheffield United at the weekend.
Striker Danny Ings was ruled out after injuring a leg muscle last time out, while Fraser Forster, Kyle Walker-Peters, Ibrahima Diallo, Takumi Minamino and Nathan Tella started on the bench.
In came goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, Jack Stephens, Mohammed Salisu, Moussa Djenepo, Nathan Redmond and Che Adams.
Saints made a hugely encouraging and positive start enjoying almost 70 per cent possession as City struggled to get hold of the ball.
But City took a 15th minute lead with their second goal attempt of the game.
Ilkay Gundogan sprayed a long ball wide left to Oleksandr Zinchenko who crossed for Phil Foden whose shot was well parried by McCarthy, but De Bruyne fired the loose ball high into the roof of the net for only his fourth goal of the season.
Saints responded well and were soon on level terms.
Redmond forced a decent diving save from Ederson who from the resulting corner did well to keep out Jannik Vestergaard’s bullet header.
The rebound was heading back towards Vestergaard when the centre back was pulled back by Laporte with referee Jon Moss pointing to the spot.
Ward-Prowse drove his spot kick down the middle for his eighth goal of the season, his best-ever return for a campaign.
It was the sixth penalty City have conceded at home this season, only the third time in the Premier League’s history this has happened.
City claimed a penalty themselves when McCarthy failed to control a wayward back pass from Mohammed Salisu and looked to clearly bring down Foden who was through on goal but Moss and VAR official Andrew Madley both refused to give it to the fury of the City substitutes and bench.
Saints remained a threat and had two great chances to go ahead.
A 30-yard drive from Ward-Prowse was well turned over by Ederson and Djenepo fired wide when put through on goal.
City were back ahead in the 42nd minute after an awful error by striker Adams who, helping out in defence, played a dreadful pass across the face of goal which was intercepted by Mahrez who from 22 yards drilled a low shot past McCarthy, his ninth goal of the season.
And they extended their lead in the third of three added minutes.
Mahrez this time provided the assist with a shot off the far upright following a mazy run for Gundogan to slot home the rebound, the German midfielder’s 14th goal of a hugely productive season, including 10 league goals in 2021.
The second half remained just as spell-blinding.
Mahrez added a fourth goal in the 55th minute. Fernandinho intercepted a poor pass out of defence and Foden squared a pass for Mahrez to finish with a low shot, his 10th of the season.
Saints reduced the deficit to 4-2 moments later with a net finish from eight yards after Redmond and Ward-Prowse featured in the build-up.
And City soon added a fifth goal when Walker’s cross was laid off by Foden for De Bruyne to fire home a low shot.
Foden, with two assists, could also have found the net as twice in the opening quarter of an hour of the half he forced decent saves from McCarthy.
City made their first change just after the hour when Mahrez was replaced by Ferran Torres and soon De Bruyne made way for Aguero.
Foden and Torres both fired narrowly wide as City look to add to their tally.
City’s last change with 10 minutes was Benjamin Mendy for Zinchenko.
Adams had the bell in the net for a second time, a terrific finish, but he had strayed offside before he latched on to Ward-Prowse’s pass.
In stoppage time Aguero forced a decent save from McCarthy as he looked for his first Premier League goal since January 2020.