Ralph Hasenhüttl expressed his delight after his Southampton side completed an unbeaten season against the team he considers the best in the Premier League.

The stats would back him up – visitors Man City arrived at St Mary’s as the reigning champions on a 12-match winning streak, making them landslide favourites to land a fourth league title in five seasons.

But Saints, who gave as good as they got in a goalless draw at the Etihad Stadium in September, did so again at St Mary’s and took an early lead through Kyle Walker-Peters.

Armando Broja then saw a goal ruled out for offside before striking the post from close range early in the second half, but Aymeric Laporte levelled the scores on 65 minutes, and Saints were forced to defend for their lives to halt City’s run.

“Very, very, very pleased – an unbelievable feeling to be unbeaten against the champions, and the future champions,” Hasenhüttl said.

“They are the best team in the league, I must say, but we did a good job today, fighting for everything and we scored a beautiful goal.

“An unbelievable goal – exactly what we wanted to play. A pullback pass from Reddy (Nathan Redmond) from the pullback area and an unbelievable finish from Kyle. It was a fantastic goal.

“We could’ve scored another one, but we had a fantastic goalkeeper and fantastic centre-backs, and this is what you have to have.”

The boss explained why it became tougher to keep City at bay the longer the game went on.

“When we are fresher we can run and develop higher pressure, and it’s tough for them to play through our lines,” he said of Saints’ first-half display.

“The longer the game goes and the less possession you have, the harder it is. This was the issue in the second half when we stopped playing – when they stop you having the ball it is super tough because they have so much quality. You’re defending deep around the box and you must throw yourself at every shot.

“When you see Kevin De Bruyne, when he has a little bit of space he is immediately a threat, and all the other strikers up front have so much quality, but we have made a point and for us it’s a big, big, big game.”