Southampton suffered a disappointing night at Manchester City, as they were soundly beaten by the Premier League leaders.
A few days on from an important win away to Sheffield United, a much-changed side found themselves on the end of a 5-2 defeat at Etihad Stadium, as a blitz of goals from the hosts late in the first half and early in the second saw them power their way to another three points on what seems like an inevitable march to the title.
It was a night that had actually begun in rather encouraging fashion for Saints, who started the better of the sides, and, although falling behind to a Kevin De Bruyne goal against the run of play, quickly responded with a James Ward-Prowse penalty.
But two goals just before half-time, from Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gündogan, swung the game decisively in the hosts’ favour, before further strikes from Mahrez and De Bruyne – either side of a Ché Adams effort – completed the scoring.
Hasenhüttl made six changes from the team that beat Sheffield United at the weekend, as he rotated in the middle of a busy week, with a home game against Brighton also on the agenda this Sunday.
Out went Fraser Forster, Kyle Walker-Peters, Ibrahima Diallo, Takumi Minamino and Nathan Tella, who all dropped to the bench, while the injured Danny Ings missed out completely.
It meant a return in goal for Alex McCarthy, with Mohammed Salisu, Jack Stephens, Nathan Redmond, Moussa Djenepo and Adams all handed starts as well. Salisu started at left-back, with Ryan Bertrand shifting across to the other side of defence, while Stephens took up a place in midfield alongside captain Ward-Prowse.Hasenhüttl was not the only one to ring the changes, as City boss Pep Guardiola did likewise.He made five alterations to the team that was beaten 2-0 at home to Manchester United a few days earlier, ending an incredible 21-match winning streak, as Kyle Walker, Aymeric Laporte, Bernardo Silva, Fernandinho and Phil Foden replaced John Stones, João Cancelo, Rodrigo, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus, meaning the hosts played without a recognised striker.Hasenhüttl would have been pleased with the opening to the match, as Saints actually dominated possession and were the more threatening of the two sides, although the couple of attacks they did have in the first ten minutes ended up as fruitless ones.So it would have been particularly frustrating for them to fall behind to City’s first attack of the match.It came on 15 minutes, as a diagonal ball picked out Oleksandr Zinchenko’s run down the left, with his square pass finding Foden in the area. He produced a first-time shot across goal, which McCarthy got down well to save with his left arm, but the rebound fell kindly to De Bruyne, who was following up, and he reacted just quickly enough to divert the ball in off the bar.Saints responded well, though, and when Stephens won the ball high up the pitch midway through the half, it sparked a quick move that ended with Redmond sending in a low, curling shot from 18 yards towards the far bottom corner, only for Ederson to tip it wide.It would prove a pivotal moment nonetheless, though, as the visitors won a penalty from the resulting corner.Ward-Prowse’s delivery was met by Vestergaard, whose thumping header was saved by Ederson, but, as the rebound came back to him, referee Jonathan Moss judged that the defender was pulled down by Laporte and, after a VAR check to confirm the decision, Ward-Prowse calmly stroked the spot kick down the middle to level the game at 1-1.
Having scored from 12 yards themselves, Saints would have then considered themselves somewhat fortunate not to have conceded a penalty themselves on 31 minutes.It was a self-inflicted mistake that led to it, with Salisu’s pass back to McCarthy slipping under the keeper’s foot as he went to control it, allowing Foden to pounce on the ball. In a bid to salvage the situation, the Saints keeper slid into a challenge, catching the ankle of the City player, who stumbled but continued on. Moss let play continue, while a VAR check deemed his decision to be correct, although it was little more than a faint touch that McCarthy may have gotten on the ball.Guardiola and his staff were fuming at the decision, but they didn’t have to wait too long until they did in fact retake the lead.Again, it was Saints who were their own worst enemy, as, with five minutes left before the break, Adams attempted to play a cross-field pass deep in his own half, only to pick out Mahrez 30 yards from goal. He brought the ball under control and pushed forward, before shifting it onto his left foot just outside the area and sending a low shot just inside the post, beating McCarthy’s full-stretch dive.It was additionally frustrating for the visitors, who had created a couple of good opportunities just before, with Ward-Prowse seeing a fierce long-range effort tipped over by Ederson, before Djenepo missed a big chance, shooting wide from just inside the area after Saints had won the ball high up the pitch and Adams had slipped a pass into him.Still, Hasenhüttl would have felt his side remained well in the game even at 2-1 down, but they suffered a deflating setback in the final moment of the first half, as City added a third.
Again, it was Mahrez at the heart of it, with his brilliant footwork in the area opening up space for a right-footed shot across goal, which came back off the inside of the post and fell kindly into the path of Gündogan, who converted from close range.Hasenhüttl made a change at the break, as Djenepo was replaced by Tella, but the second half began with City very much on the front foot, and they made it 4-1 on 55 minutes, as Mahrez got his second of the night.Foden provided the assist, picking him out with a low pass from the right side of the area, with Mahrez spinning and planting a low, left-footed strike into the bottom corner.Saints, though, immediately cancelled that goal out, as they scored only a minute later.
Redmond laid a pass back to Stuart Armstrong on the edge of the area, with his shot deflecting into the path of Adams, who struck a low shot past Ederson from close range.However, only three minutes later, City were on the scoresheet again.This time, De Bruyne bagged his second of the match, showing neat footwork after taking the ball from Foden on the edge of the box and firing a low shot into the bottom corner.City then sent on Ferran Torres for Mahrez, while Saints made a change of their own, as Diallo replaced Stephens.With a little under 20 minutes left, each side made another substitution, as Sergio Agüero was introduced for De Bruyne, while Caleb Watts was given an opportunity for Saints, taking the place of Armstrong.
Torres could have added a sixth for City on 78 minutes, as Fernandinho tackled Salisu on the edge of the box, with the ball falling into the substitute's path, but his right-footed shot went just wide of the far post.The string of substitutions continued, as Benjamin Mendy was sent on by the hosts for Zinchenko as the clock ticked past 80 minutes.While there was no doubt about the destination of the points, Saints did continue to push for a third goal, and they earned an opportunity with a free-kick for Ward-Prowse 30 yards out with a couple of minutes left, but Ward-Prowse's effort, while well-struck, was a little too close to the centre of the goal, and Ederson had time to get safely behind it and knock it down.They did then have the ball in the net soon after, as Ward-Prowse broke forward and fed in Adams on the left side of the box. The striker produced a marvellous finish across goal with his right foot, but he was flagged for offside, having gone a little too early with his run in behind.At the other end, Silva went close to another for City with a shot across goal from the edge of the box, while McCarthy had to save at his near post from a sharp Agüero shot, before Moss brought an end to proceedings.