On-song City too strong for Saints


Southampton were the latest team to feel the full force of an on-song Manchester City, as Pep Guardiola’s side hit four goals without replay at the Etihad Stadium.

Gavin Bazunu made an impressive early save from Riyad Mahrez, while Erling Haaland struck the inside of the post before João Cancelo opened the scoring 20 minutes into the game.

Phil Foden doubled the lead on the half-hour, before Mahrez and Haaland added further goals after the interval.

Bazunu thwarted Haaland, Jack Grealish and Cole Palmer to prevent further damage to the scoreline, but Saints were unable to replicate last season’s clean sheet on the same ground.

Ralph Hasenhüttl made four changes to his side following last weekend’s 2-1 home defeat to Everton, restoring Mohammed Salisu and Romain Perraud to his defence, and Joe Aribo and Adam Armstrong to his attack.

That meant summer signings Duje Ćaleta-Car, Juan Larios, Ainsley-Maitland-Niles and Sékou Mara all dropped to the bench, while Samuel Edozie was not part of the matchday squad.

Saints knew the size of the task in front of them, and City wasted no time in setting the tempo.

Inside the first two minutes, Cancelo raced away down the left and crossed to the far post where Mahrez was waiting to take a touch and hammer a half-volley back across Bazunu, who produced a spectacular flying save to his right to keep the Algerian at bay.

The same combination were at it again soon after, only for Mahrez to volley high into the stand behind Bazunu’s goal.

Much of the talk in the build-up to the game surrounded the electrifying form of Haaland, who already had 19 goals to his name since his summer switch from Borussia Dortmund.

It seemed inevitable the Norwegian would add to his tally when put through by Foden on 14 minutes, but for once his radar was just marginally off, as his first-time shot struck the inside of the post, ran across the goal line and out for a goal kick before the striker could retrieve the rebound.

Saints were hanging by a thread before Cancelo made the breakthrough six minutes later. Receiving the ball from Foden, the full-back sidestepped James Ward-Prowse to buy himself a yard of space on his left foot and drilled a low shot across Bazunu to find the bottom corner.

The goal did at least allow Saints to pause for breath, as a temporary lull ensued, but it did not take long for City to reassert their dominance.

The visitors were indebted to the bravery of Ché Adams, who flung himself in the way of Haaland’s vicious shot with the sort of block any central defender would be proud of.

Next to go close was Foden, who drew another save from Bazunu, but the England star would not be denied when put through by Kevin De Bruyne, this time keeping his composure with a delicate chip over the advancing goalkeeper.

Saints’ first shot in anger arrived shortly before the interval, as Armstrong’s square pass picked out his namesake, but Stuart’s rising drive was just too high, as his clean connection from 20 yards narrowly cleared Ederson’s crossbar.

After the half-time break allowed Saints to regroup, any hopes of a revival were quickly extinguished when Mahrez volleyed him Rodri’s floated ball to the far post – another unerring finish that left Bazunu no chance in the Saints goal.

Meanwhile, Haaland remained intent on getting his own name on the scoresheet, steering one chance wide before he was just too slow to meet De Bruyne’s teasing low cross into tap-in territory.

Next to stand in his way was Bazunu, as once again De Bruyne dissected the Saints backline to send the No 9 on his bike, but the Irishman dived at his feet with an outstretched right hand that pushed the ball smartly away from danger.

Unfortunately, this was a fight Saints could not win, and Haaland finally got his goal 20 minutes into the second half, sweeping home Cancelo’s low cross from the left with typically ruthless efficiency.

Hasenhüttl responded with a double substitution, taking off the two Armstrongs, as Mohamed Elyounoussi and Moussa Djenepo entered the fray.

That would be the end of the goals, if not the chances, as substitute Grealish found Bazunu in top form once more to tip his left-footed drive over the bar, before Nathan Aké nodded a Grealish corner just wide.

Bazunu completed his collection of saves with another late stop to keep out youngster Palmer, and can take pride in his own performance on a day when Saints simply had no answer to a world-class outfit.