City close the gap with dominant South Coast performance

Manchester City headed to St. Mary’s Stadium with a point to prove after their previous meeting with the Saints saw the Blues exit the Carabao Cup in the quarter-finals after a 2-0 defeat. However, with key players like Mohammed Salisu and Che Adams still out with injury for the Saints, City were likely to fancy their chances of closing their 8-point gap with Arsenal. Mikel Arteta’s side face Liverpool on Sunday.

SOU: Bazunu; Walker-Peters, Bella-Kotchap, Bednarek, Maitland-Niles; Elyounoussi, Ward-Prowse, Lavia; Kamaldeen, Alcaraz, Walcott

MCI: Ederson; Aké, Dias, Akanji; Rodri, Stones; Grealish, Gundogan, De Bruyne, Mahrez; Haaland

Although City proved to be just as dominant without their top scorer last week in their 4-1 win against Liverpool, Haaland returned to his starting position at Julian Alvarez’s expense as the Citizens chased their fifth win on the bounce.

Apart from that, Guardiola maintained the same starting eleven with John Stones fulfilling his trusted yet still unaccustomed role as an inverted full back, advancing into the midfield but dropping back in defence when necessary.

After a quiet first half for Erling Haaland with only eight touches, the Norwegian claimed the opening goal at the best possible time before the break with a clutch header that was perfectly delivered from the left by Kevin De Bruyne. The Belgian now becomes the the fifth player to celebrate 100 Premier League assists, after Ryan Giggs (162), Cesc Fabregas (111), Wayne Rooney (103) and Frank Lampard (102).

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Southampton would have been disappointed to have gone into half-time behind, as they failed to capitalise on several goal-scoring opportunities – especially with Sulemana failing to maintain his composure in front of goal from a rapid counter-attack in the 16th minute.

Guardiola’s tactical changes in the 57th minute with Bernardo Silva and Kyle Walker replacing Riyad Mahrez and John Stones respectively seemed to have immediately paid off, as Jack Grealish managed to make it 2-0, giving Southampton a mountain to climb.

It was only a matter of time before Haaland bagged his 30th league goal of the season, and what better way to achieve this milestone with a masterful bicycle kick to put City 3-0 up! Grealish showed his creativity by dribbling down the left and cutting inside before serving his teammate with a ball slightly behind him, but didn’t seem to bother the striker who jumped to smash a flying bicycle kick in the bottom corner.

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The Saints had a glimmer of hope when substitute Moussa Djenepo slalomed past three City defenders to arrive in the box and provide other substitute Sékou Mara with a tidy finish past Ederson for a possible comeback opportunity- but City’s three-goal gap was quickly restored with a converted penalty in the 75th minute as Alvarez stepped up with one of his first touches of the ball, slotting the ball into the bottom-right corner.

This 4-1 victory for the Citizens means that they have nine games left to chase their third consecutive Premier League title and with ruthless performances like these, they give themselves every chance of doing so. For the Saints, on the other hand, they remain rock-bottom of the table – four points from safety and a hefty negative goal difference, exacerbated by today’s result.