Gutsy Saints end City's winning streak


Southampton ended Manchester City’s 12-match winning streak in the Premier League with a performance full of endeavour at St Mary’s.

It might have been even better for Saints, who led from the seventh minute when Kyle Walker-Peters opened his league account with a sumptuous half-volley.

Armando Broja had the ball in the net later in the first half, only to be flagged offside, before heading against the post early in the second period.

City had been made to look ordinary for the first half hour, but when they did come to life were a constant threat.

Defender Aymeric Laporte headed them level with 25 minutes left, before Kevin De Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus both struck the same upright, leaving the hosts hanging on for a richly-deserved point.

Ralph Hasenhüttl made three changes to his side, as Saints reverted to a back four.

That meant Lyanco, operating as a third centre-back in recent games, dropped to the bench, along with Ibrahima Diallo, the third midfielder, while Nathan Tella was nursing a groin problem.

In came Walker-Peters to play at right-back, Stuart Armstrong to play as one of the wide No 10s, and Ché Adams to partner Broja up front.

It was a brave tactical selection from the manager, but his team were measured in their pressing.

Saints were happy for City’s goalkeeper and central defenders to pass the ball among themselves, but any forages into midfield were pounced upon as the hosts grew in confidence, roared on by a boisterous home crowd.

Those fans were on their feet inside seven minutes, as Walker-Peters rifled Saints in front.

It came at the end of a sublime piece of football. Oriol Romeu switched the play to find Walker-Peters on the halfway line near the right touchline.

From there, the defender fed the ball down the line to Nathan Redmond and followed his pass, bursting into the box as Redmond sprinted into a crossing position.

The winger duly returned the favour, as his low delivery picked out Walker-Peters, who took a touch and brilliantly cut across the bouncing ball just enough to bring it back inside the far post and send St Mary’s into raptures.

Whilst City, as always, were enjoying plenty of possession, Fraser Forster was a virtual spectator.

Jack Grealish was carrying the ball with purpose, committing defenders and winning fouls, but the visitors were strangely subdued in the final third.

Saints were certainly not overawed, having beaten the reigning champions in each of the last two seasons, and sensed their chance to double the lead midway through the half.

Romeu played the ball through for Broja, who kept his balance and composure to slide a low shot past Ederson, only to be given offside as Saints’ celebrations were cut short by one of those frustratingly late flags.

The Albanian is a constant menace with his long stride and deceptive pace, and strike partner Adams supplied a similar pass soon after, which led to loud appeals for a penalty when Ederson brought him down, but again Broja had set off too soon.

For City, João Cancelo drove a long ranger harmlessly into the stands, while Forster was in the right place to cut out Grealish’s intended cutback from the byeline.

It would take until the 35th minute for the runaway league leaders to register a chance of note, as Raheem Sterling dropped a shoulder, checked inside and sent a curling effort just beyond the angle of post and bar.

Suddenly City had taken it up a notch, and Sterling looked certain to equalise soon after.

Phil Foden’s low ball across the box was begging to be finished, but his England colleague was too casual with the finish, and to his credit Forster spread himself expertly to block his initial shot before improvising to boot the loose ball out of harm’s way.

It needed a crucial interception from Redmond to deny De Bruyne when the Belgian was poised to shoot, while Forster’s perfect handling intercepted a dangerous low cross and Mohammed Salisu watched the ball and not the man to dispossess Sterling cleanly in the box.

Having made it through the first half unscathed, Saints were forced to make a substitution at the break.

Redmond, whose cross had made the goal and whose industry had helped maintain the lead, was withdrawn for tactical reasons as Mohamed Elyounoussi took his place.

Saints began the second period the way they’d started the first, threatening the wounded visitors.

Having won an early corner, James Ward-Prowse’s near-post delivery was glanced on by Jan Bednarek, who forced a point-blank save from Ederson.

But it was always likely that Forster would end the match the busier keeper, and Saints’ last line of defence was sent flying to his left to repel a shot from Rodri that was scuffed into the ground but was creeping in as it gathered pace off the turf.

The intent with which City had ended the first half may have given the impression that they would dominate the second, but Saints were having none of it, as Broja had two glorious chances to add to the champions’ woes.

This time beating the offside trap, he seemed to be clear of Laporte, only for the defender to get a vital foot on the ball just as Saints’ top scorer prepared to pull the trigger.

An even better opportunity arose from the resulting corner, as the ball dropped kindly on to his head just a couple of yards out, but Broja’s effort struck the post and Bednarek lashed the loose ball wildly off target.

Forster, meanwhile, had to be alert to keep out the talented Foden, who connected so sweetly on the volley, but the keeper had his angles right and was taking no chances, beating the ball away.

Rodri had also come close, and was inches away when he eyed up the top corner from 20 yards, but Saints were still good value for the lead they had held for the best part of an hour.

City finally found the key to unpick the lock on 65 minutes, and Hasenhüttl would have been irritated by its simplicity, as De Bruyne’s inviting free-kick was headed home gleefully by Laporte from six yards.

The equaliser only served to give City a taste for goals, as this juggernaut of a team sensed a 13th successive Premier League victory.

De Bruyne’s curler had Forster beaten but not his left-hand post, before substitute Jesus struck the same upright with a close-range header as Saints rode their luck.

Hasenhüttl reached for reinforcements soon after Laporte’s leveller, sending on Lyanco for Bednarek, who was on a yellow card, as fellow centre-back Salisu took another rocket from Foden square in the face, underlining the home team’s commitment.

Saints hearts were in mouths from a rare period of respite when VAR dissected a challenge from Salisu on De Bruyne, and then a potential red card when Armstrong left his foot in on Laporte, but the hosts survived both incidents.

The Scot was sacrificed almost immediately after, as Diallo arrived to freshen up the midfield for the remaining eight minutes plus stoppage time.

City kept pushing but did leave gaps, as Diallo tested Ederson from the edge of the box, before the increasingly-influential De Bruyne steered one wide and forced one last save from Forster, but Saints had their second draw of the season against arguably the finest team on the planet, extending their own unbeaten home run to eight matches.