Manchester City returned to winning ways with a five star performance over the struggling Saints, although another ridiculous VAR decision will once again detract from the footballing spectacle.
Riyad Mahrez and Kevin de Bruyne doubles, along with a close-range Ilkay Gundogan effort, overcame an early James Ward-Prowse penalty equaliser and a second half Che Adams finish, but it is the tackle by Alex McCarthy on Phil Foden that must and will be focused on.
City started sluggishly in the derby and were arguably even worse in the early exchanges here, with the key difference being that Southampton failed to turn their 75% possession into chances.
After 15 minutes, and with their first foray up the pitch, City showed exactly why Southampton have been on such a wretched recent run of form.
Ryan Bertrand, filling in at right back, was horrendously exposed by a simple ball over his head to the overlapping Oleksandr Zinchenko, with his cross finding Foden in the box. Although McCarthy saved the initial shot, the ball rebounded to de Bruyne to hammer in off the bar and give City the lead.
The goal seemed to settle the pattern of play more as expected, with City now starting to find their slick passing range.
So it was a genuine surprise when Southampton suddenly found themselves with a penalty after a foul on Jannik Vestergaard by Aymeric Laporte, following a good save by Ederson from the former’s header.
On inspection, it was dubious. It was very much the Mo Salah penalty at Anfield- a tiny touch on the shoulder, and the sudden swan dive of the player in a way completely impossible with the supposed foul.
Nevertheless, it was given. Unsurprisingly, Ward-Prowse hammered the spotkick home with ease.
Five minutes later, the complete incompetence of the current officiating was once again laid bare.
A difficult backpass slid away from McCarthy towards Foden, with the Saints keeper desperately sliding towards the ball in an attempt to retrieve the situation. However, he failed. Foden got their first, and took the ball past McCarthy before blatantly being chopped down.
Foden deserves huge credit for getting up and trying to score, but was unable to convert as Southampton chased back. Referee Jon Moss somehow thought McCarthy had got a touch on the ball, but not to worry, VAR will sort it.
As referred to previously, Manchester United were given a penalty by VAR against the same opponent for something that was blatantly not a penalty, and indeed the resultant red card was overturned.
Here, however, VAR (paraphrased) said that they ‘could not disagree with the referee’s interpretation of the goalkeeper having got a touch on the ball.’
This is despite the fact that literally every replay conclusively proved McCarthy was closer to slide tackling the corner flag than he was the football.
After the game Graeme Souness called it “foolish”. Once again, and not for the first time, the more accurate description would be “beyond human comprehension” or “incompetence/bias beyond belief.”
From his post-match comments, Pep Guardiola clearly agreed.
Fortunately for VAR, in the end it did not matter, as City scored not once but twice before the half time whistle.
First, a horrendous error by Che Adams well inside his own half saw him skew a crossfield ball to Mahrez, who once again showcased his wonderful left foot as he drove forward and curled into the far bottom corner from the edge of the box.
On the stroke of halftime, more breath-taking play by the Algerian saw him beat his man on the outside this time, and although his shot came off the base of the post Gundogan was on hand to tap home.
Half time: Manchester City 3-1 Southampton
City could not have started the second half any different to the first. The play was confined within the Southampton goal, with the away side unable to string together a pass, never mind any sort of possession.
The goal was coming, and it arrived as Mahrez again drifted past multiple players in the box, before stuttering to fool Ward-Prowse into committing and smashing the ball inside the near post.
Literally from the restart, Southampton somehow contrived to get back into the game, as a number of ricochets resulted in a Ward-Prowse shot bouncing off Laporte onto Adams and leaving the striker with an open goal.
Stung by the action, City could have scored twice before de Bruyne re-established the three-goal cushion in the 58th minute, with McCarthy brilliantly denying Foden and Bertrand performing a fantastic last-ditch tackle on the same player.
Foden was not to be denied, however, and he set up de Bruyne to nutmeg a scrambling defender before confidently stroking home for five.
Further chances followed, mainly for the home side, although Adams almost pulled a goal back late on but was denied by the offside flag.
Ferran Torres was guilty of a glaring miss, while a combination of McCarthy and bad luck prevented Foden getting the goal his performance utterly deserved.
In the end it did not matter, and the whistle blew to herald City’s return to the top of the table and another step closer to the title. Southampton have gained only four points from 11 games, and are starting to look nervously over their shoulder.
Full time: Manchester City 5-2 Southampton
Man of the Match: Riyad Mahrez
Foden was excellent, but it is hard to justify the supreme ability of Riyad Mahrez with words alone. Simply put? What a player. Touch, dribbling, passing, finishing. He really does have it all.