A gutsy second half display from Manchester City saw them close out a tight game at St Mary’s Stadium thanks to Raheem Sterling’s early goal.
The result sees City rise to 5th in the league, one place and one point behind Southampton, who proved they are no flash in the pan with a genuinely excellent performance.
The Saints started strongly, full of energy and high pressing. City, after not being in the contest for the first five minutes, then started to dominate proceedings.
Their first attempt on goal saw a Kevin de Bruyne shot from the edge of the box deflect away for a corner with Alex McCarthy scrambling. Sterling then curled over the top, before a Joao Cancelo blast from 25 yards was well beaten away by the Southampton goalkeeper following a run of short corners.
The goal was coming, and it did not take long to arrive.
With 15 minutes played, and thanks to Ederson defeating the Saints press, the ball found Bernardo Silva running at Ryan Bertrand with de Bruyne overlapping outside. Silva played the pass perfectly into the Belgian’s stride, and his pinpoint whipped cross found Sterling unmarked on the penalty spot to guide home.
From there, some might have thought City would continue to dictate proceedings. In fact, Southampton would go on to completely dominate the next 30 minutes.
Right after going behind, John Stones did well to block Danny Ings’ goal-bound attempt in a 1v1 from quick Saints play. Shortly after, a Theo Walcott snapshot was beaten away by Ederson towards Ings, but the England striker was unable to sort his feet and the chance was gone.
James Ward-Prowse and his set pieces have been a key weapon for Southampton this season. As such, it was no surprise that his delivery was causing problems for the City defence. Consecutive corners found the head of Jannik Vestergaard, but the first was looped into the hands of Ederson while the second was bulleted over the bar.
Walcott and Kyle Walker-Peters were causing havoc down the City left, and the two combined for Southampton’s best chance of the half. After a long ball set Walker-Peters away, Walcott’s cross from the cutback missed the unmarked Che Adams by inches, when any contact would have resulted in a goal, and hit a blindsided Stones square in the face.
Luckily for City, the ball landed a yard wide of the post.
As the whistle sounded, Southampton could consider themselves unlucky to trail at the break, with City being dominated in the middle third after an excellent start.
Half time: Southampton 0-1 Manchester City
The second half was barely a minute old when City almost doubled their lead, Ferran Torres finding space down the right and smashing an effort just wide of McCarthy’s far post.
When City did manage to outplay the Southampton press, there was space available to attack. So, when de Bruyne and Sterling interchanged passes down the Saints right, there was real danger.
It was no surprise to see the Belgian pick out a perfect pass to Silva on the edge of the box. His first touch took him past Vestergaard perfectly but, with Bertrand desperately trying to cover, he chose to round the left back and ran out of space, with his shot trickling through the Southampton keeper.
City were defending excellently, and were happy to try and pick the Saints off. After seeing out another spell of Southampton pressure, City again had a clear opportunity for two.
A huge lapse in concentration by Jan Bednarek saw him play a pass behind his centre back partner straight to Torres. The ball was quickly worked to an onrushing de Bruyne on the edge of the box, but the shot was tame, with McCarthy able to gather at the second attempt.
In the 73rd minute, Southampton finally had a chance. Nathan Tella, on for the injured Ings, curled a beauty of a ball into the City box, the type which attackers love and sees defenders waking up in the middle of the night. Stones did very well to slide in and get a touch ahead of Che Adams, with the ball looping away from goal, before the Saints man nodded an effort harmlessly into the side netting.
For all of Southampton’s best efforts, City did not give up so much as a half chance in the remaining 20 minutes. Instead, they kept pressing forward, with McCarthy brilliantly pawing over a shot by Ilkay Gundogan and substitute Riyad Mahrez hitting a vicious shot just over.
City somehow conspired to not score a 4v2 counter in the final minutes, with Silva for some unknown reason crossing to Mahrez with the goal gaping and just McCarthy to beat, but in the end it did not matter.
The whistle blew following clever corner possession from de Bruyne and Sterling, who managed to see out most of the five added minutes between them. For all of Saints’ excellent play, City restricted them to a handful of chances, and were deserved winners in the end.
Full time: Southampton 0-1 Manchester City
Man of the Match: Kevin de Bruyne
The centre back pairing for City was excellent yet again, while Southampton also had several outstanding performances, most notably Walcott and Vestergaard. The plaudits have to go to de Bruyne though, who was once again a joy to watch.