Spirited Saints denied by late City winner

By SFC Media time Sat 02 Nov Man City v Saints
Photo by Matt Watson | Stuart Armstrong
Sat 02 Nov 3PM
Premier League
Manchester City
Agüero [70'] Walker [86']
Ward-Prowse [13']
Sterling (40') Gündogan (89') Ederson (90+5')
yellow card
Højbjerg (18')
Referee: Lee Mason | Venue: Etihad Stadium | Attendance: 53,922

A battling Southampton performance finally came unstuck four minutes from time as Manchester City snatched victory to deny Saints a point they worked incredibly hard to achieve at the Etihad Stadium.

James Ward-Prowse’s 13th minute strike, when the midfielder followed up Stuart Armstrong’s shot that was fumbled by Ederson, looked like earning Saints a result for a long time in the face of heavy City possession that did not necessarily amount to an avalanche of chances.

In fact, Sergio Agüero’s equaliser 20 minutes from the end was the hosts’ first shot on target, but the pressure continued to grow and unlikely match-winner Kyle Walker pounced with four minutes left to complete the turnaround.

Ralph Hasenhüttl made three changes to his team who competed well in the midweek Carabao Cup meeting between the sides.

Jannik Vestergaard was restored to the defence, replacing Kevin Danso, as skipper Pierre-Emile Højbjerg continued in the left wing-back role.

Meanwhile, Nathan Redmond and Danny Ings, fresh from being rested in the cup, were back to lead the attack.

Saints negotiated the first ten minutes with minimum fuss. Agüero headed wide from a half-chance and Kevin De Bruyne saw a low volley blocked, but the visitors were enjoying far more possession than on Tuesday night.

Then, in the 13th minute, Saints capitalised on a rare City error to stun the Etihad.

Typically energetic, Redmond set off down the right and found himself handily placed to pick out Armstrong, whose first-time shot zipped across a wet pitch to make life difficult for goalkeeper Ederson.

It still looked like being a simple save for the Brazilian, but Ward-Prowse did not give it up and, when the keeper spilled it, the Saints man followed up to convert from close range.

20191102 Manchester City v Southampton
James Ward-Prowse celebrates his opportunistic opener

Saints had a really good shape about them. When City did break the lines, Højbjerg took one for the team and fouled Bernardo Silva, taking a yellow card for his troubles, before Oriol Romeu and Stuart Armstrong threw themselves in front of shots from the edge of the box to protect goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, who remained untested.

There could be no denying that City had dominated since the goal, but for all their possession, there was no way through the grey and yellow wall in front of them.

From seemingly every corner, the hosts were opting to play short and change the angle. From one of those, John Stones sneaked in unopposed to meet Ilkay Gündogan’s cross in front of McCarthy, but could not keep his header down.

Saints ended the half with a sustained spell of possession that illustrated their growing confidence.

Ings’s shot at the end of it was easily held by Ederson, but at the other end, David Silva’s deflected snapshot was City’s last warning of a strangely subdued half from the Premier League champions.

Indeed, at the interval, City were still yet to register a single attempt on target – how often has that happened under Pep Guardiola? 

Whilst Saints had enjoyed periods of respite in the first 45, the second half began almost exclusively inside visiting territory.

But Hasenhüttl’s men remained switched on, as Yan Valery tracked the run of Raheem Sterling to diffuse the sort of one-two that tends to prise open most top-flight defences.

An increasingly frustrated Guardiola was tip-toeing on to the pitch and employing himself as an emergency ball boy as he charged around his technical area in a bid to inspire a City fightback.

20191102 Manchester City v Southampton
Midfield warrior Oriol Romeu snuffed out numerous City attacks

Still McCarthy remained untested, in spite of Gabriel Jesus’s half-time arrival from the bench.

When Bernardo Silva found space to deliver a cross, Agüero could not head the ball down to test the keeper, and the game entered its final quarter with the glory of victory creeping into view.

But City and Agüero were far from finished, and Saints’ impressive resistance was finally broken 20 minutes from time, as Walker drilled in a low cross just in the nick of time – before the ball ran behind for a goal kick – and Agüero swept home the equaliser from ten yards out.

Suddenly, with Liverpool losing at Aston Villa, the Etihad came to life as the home crowd smelled blood and a potential twist in the title race.

An injury to Valery and the ensuing arrival of substitute Kevin Danso temporarily stifled their momentum, but Saints knew it was going to take a superhuman effort to escape with a point.

It was remarkable to think McCarthy was still yet to make a save, but that was about to change in the 78th minute when Sterling darted into the box, reached the byeline and picked out Bernardo Silva, who found himself with a similar chance to the one dispatched by Agüero shortly before.

This time, McCarthy was able to stretch both hands above his head and help the driven shot on its way over the bar.

McCarthy was involved again in a bizarre passage of play that would have left Saints fuelled by regret had it cost them the game.

In trying to counter-attack, the ball struck referee Lee Mason on the arm and play was halted, with Saints allowed to resume with a drop ball. 

When Jan Bednarek passed back to McCarthy and the keeper picked it up, an indirect free-kick was awarded, the Etihad held its breath and De Bruyne curled one inches wide.

The Agüero’s deflected shot whistled just past the post in another unbearably close shave, as the travelling supporters at the far end of the stadium chewed on their fingernails some more.

Hasenhüttl called upon Moussa Djenepo to replace Ings for the closing stages, offering another pacey option on the break alongside Redmond, but his team would eventually come unstuck.

When left-back Angeliño reached the byeline and dug out a cross, McCarthy got a hand to it but could not push it beyond the onrushing Walker, as one full-back combined with the other and the England man slid in at the far post to send the home fans into raptures.

A couple of late Djenepo runs contrived to cause panic in the City ranks, but Guardiola’s men saw the job through.

Manchester City

Head to Head Stats

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Manchester City

Ederson (GK) yellow card
John Stones
Kyle Walker goal
Kevin De Bruyne
Ilkay Gündogan yellow card
David Silva (C)
replace Gabriel Jesus (45′)
Sergio Agüero goal
replace Nicolás Otamendi (92′)
Raheem Sterling yellow card
Bernardo Silva
replace Phil Foden (84′)
Claudio Bravo
Gabriel Jesus
João Cancelo
Riyad Mahrez
Phil Foden
Benjamin Mendy
Nicolás Otamendi


Alex McCarthy (GK)
Jan Bednarek
replace Che Adams (88′)
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (C) yellow card
Jack Stephens
Jannik Vestergaard
Yan Valery
replace Kevin Danso (75′)
Oriol Romeu
Stuart Armstrong
James Ward-Prowse goal
Nathan Redmond
Danny Ings
replace Moussa Djenepo (84′)
Kevin Danso
Che Adams
Shane Long
Maya Yoshida
Moussa Djenepo
Sofiane Boufal
Angus Gunn
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