City returned to the top of the Premier League after a hard-fought 1-1 draw with Southampton.
The Blues, looking to end a run of four games without a win, were up against a well-organised, defensive Southampton side who had conceded just two goals in their previous eight games. It was far from vintage stuff from the Blues, but despite not being at their fluent best, Pep Guardiola will have been pleased by the way his team dug in and kept battling until the end. Here's how the game panned out...
What happened? City began slowly against a well-drilled Saints side looking to defend in numbers and then counter-attack at speed. It proved to be a frustrating opening 25 minutes or so with the Blues unable to break two solid banks of four in front of Fraser Forster, but that said, City were far from their best with too many misplaced passes. With Guardiola admitting his frustration at the goals the Blues have given away in recent weeks, the manner in which Southampton took the lead on 27 minutes will give the City boss more cause for concern. With few options open to him, John Stones attempted a pass to Vincent Kompany but the skipper was caught flat footed and Nathan Redmond nipped in to take the ball around Claudio Bravo and plant the ball firmly home. Stones thought he had made amends five minutes later as he volleyed home David Silva’s free-kick but the assistant referee had spotted Aguero had fractionally strayed offside and the goal was ruled out. The Blues needed to find some spark and imagination, but with so many of the team looking far from their best, it was something of a relief when the half-time whistle ended what had easily been City’s flattest 45 minutes of the campaign so far. Had the midweek defeat to Barca damaged morale? Guardiola’s response was to replace a mis-firing Kevin De Bruyne with Kelechi Iheanacho in a bid to add more bite into an attack that had failed to test Forster thus far. It took just ten minutes for the talented Nigerian to make his mark with a goal that came as a huge relief to all concerned. It began with a pinpoint ball from Fernandinho who spotted Leroy Sane’s run towards goal – the young German took the ball to the left of the six-yard box where he delayed long enough to pick out the run of Iheancho who finished smartly from close range. Suddenly, the movement was better, the passing more accurate and the belief was back. Iheancho was a constant thorn in the Saints’ defence and he combined well with Ilkay Gundogan to force a save out of Forster as the Blues tried to find what would likely be the winning goal. Saints caught City on the break on a number of occasions but a fantastic run by Sergio Aguero saw the Argentine burst through the middle before hitting a low cross/shot across goal but ultimately wide. There was some desperate late defending from the visitors who threw bodies in the way of everything the Blues threw at them – and ultimately, it was enough for Southampton to head home with a precious point.
Key moment: The move that led to Iheanacho’s equaliser was a pivotal moment for City who kept knocking at the door despite not having the best of afternoons.
Man-of-the-Match: Leroy Sane Lively and inventive throughout, Sane continued his game-by-game improvement with his best display yet for the Blues. Skill, industry and an assist for the Germany international who just edged the honours over skipper Kompany. City returned to the top of the Premier League after a hard-fought 1-1 draw with Southampton.
Manchester City (1): Bravo, Stones, Kompany (Navas), Kolarov, Sané (Nolito), Gündoğan, Fernandinho, Silva, Sterling, De Bruyne (Iheanacho), Agüero.