City hold off Saints

By SFC Media time Sat 19 Dec Saints v Manchester City
Photo by Matt Watson
Sat 19 Dec 3PM
Premier League
Manchester City
Sterling [16']
Romeu (38') Ward-Prowse (42')
yellow card
De Bruyne (25') Ederson (81')
Referee: Mike Dean | Venue: St Mary's Stadium | Attendance: 2,000

Southampton's latest unbeaten run came to an end, as they fell to a narrow defeat at home to Manchester City, but manager Ralph Hasenhüttl will have been left with plenty of positives to reflect on from his team’s performance.

In what was only their second defeat in 12 matches, Saints gave at least as good as they got for the vast majority of this encounter, only to lose to a slick move from the visitors on 15 minutes, as Raheem Sterling converted from Kevin De Bruyne’s low delivery.

Beyond that, there was little between the sides, but an equaliser ended up proving elusive for the hosts, who will nonetheless head into Christmas Day in a very strong position in the Premier League table.

They will, however, have concern over striker Danny Ings, who was forced off with injury towards the end of the first half, while they are also facing the loss of midfielder Oriol Romeu for the Boxing Day trip to Fulham after he picked up a fifth booking of the season.

Three days on from facing Arsenal in midweek, Hasenhüttl made one change to his starting line-up, as Moussa Djenepo was restored in place of Stuart Armstrong.

For Pep Guardiola, there were four alterations to the team that drew 1-1 at home to West Brom on Tuesday, with Kyle Walker, John Stones, Bernardo Silva and Ferran Torres coming in for Benjamin Mendy, Nathan Ake, Phil Foden and Gabriel Jesus.

20201219 Southampton v Manchester City
Fans were back at St Mary's once again, with 2,000 in attendance (Photo: Matt Watson)

With clubs now able to name nine substitutes in the Premier League, both managers also took the opportunity to add an extra two players to their respective benches.

Hasenhüttl would probably have been the happier of the two with the first ten minutes, as Saints pressed Guardiola’s side well, turning the ball over a couple of times inside City’s half, although their best opening, when Ings slipped Djenepo into space down the inside left in the fifth minute, ended with his shot being scuffed and Kyle Walker diverting it behind.

After that opening spell, though, City claimed the ascendancy.

Sterling fired over from outside the box on 11 minutes, before Jannik Vestergaard deflected a De Bruyne shot behind shortly after.

Alex McCarthy then had to produce a diving stop as João Cancelo sent in a well-struck effort from distance on 13 minutes, as pressure on the Saints goal began to mount.

City did find the net two minutes later, when Rodrigo struck home at the back post as Bernardo Silva’s curling free-kick from the left reached him, but play had already been halted for offside after a couple of City players in central positions broke early.

20201219 Southampton v Manchester City
Raheem Sterling wheels away in celebration after putting City ahead (Photo: Matt Watson)

The visitors did not have to wait much longer for the breakthrough, though, as they claimed the lead in the 16th minute. De Bruyne was the creator, getting away down the right before cleverly picking out Sterling in a central position with a low ball, and the City forward calmly swept home from about 12 yards out.

Saints issued a positive response, though – which was also the reaction from the 2,000 fans inside St Mary’s as the restart was taken – and they threatened to level on 21 minutes, as Ederson pushed away a Theo Walcott shot from the right edge of the area, with the rebound a whisker away from Ings as he stretched to divert it back into the net.

The hosts then went close to opening up City two minutes later, as Kyle Walker-Peters clipped a ball to the back post, where Ché Adams was in space, but he attempted to square it back across goal when a first-time shot may have been a better option and didn’t manage a clean connection on his pass.

After De Bruyne went into referee Mike Dean’s book for a late tackle on Ryan Bertrand, Saints went close again. Djenepo’s angled ball to the right of the area was helped back across the area by Walcott, with Ings beating Rüben Dias to it. The Saints striker’s header flew wide of the near post, but he also had a claim for having been caught by the City man in the process, only for the penalty appeal to be waved away.

Still Saints pushed for an equaliser, and next it was Vestergaard to have an effort, as he got on the end of an out-swinging James Ward-Prowse corner, only for Ederson to keep it out.

Another opportunity came on 34 minutes, as first Walcott curled in a cross from the right that just eluded Adams and saw Stones head inches wide of his own post, before from the resulting corner Ward-Prowse again found Vestergaard in a central position, but the centre-back almost stooped too far to reach the header as it dropped between defenders, getting under it and sending it well over.

20201219 Southampton v Manchester City
Danny Ings was forced off with injury shortly before half-time (Photo: Matt Watson)

There was certainly reason to be upbeat for Saints at this point, but there were two bits of bad news to come ahead of half-time. First, Romeu was cautioned by Dean, as he caught Ferran Torres late in midfield, resulting in his fifth yellow card of the season and earning him a one-match ban. Secondly, Ings went down with injury, with Hasenhüttl sending on Nathan Tella to replace him.

Ward-Prowse also picked up a yellow before the break after bringing down Ilkay Gündogan, in what was the last moment of note before Dean brought proceedings to a close.

It was City who were straight on the front foot after the break, and they almost went 2-0 ahead inside two minutes of the restart, as Torres found space down the right and sent a shot across goal that had McCarthy at full stretch but which went just wide.

They really should have doubled the advantage on 54 minutes, as a lovely move saw Sterling release De Bruyne down the left, and he squared for Silva on the edge of the area, only for him to take one touch too many and scuff his subsequent shot, allowing McCarthy to make a relatively comfortable stop.

Hasenhüttl responded with a change shortly after, as Nathan Redmond replaced Djenepo.

Saints almost then bagged what would have been a very unusual equaliser, as an in-swinging Ward-Prowse corner nearly curled in at the near post, only for Ederson to punch it behind as he clattered into the frame of the goal.

From the resulting corner, Saints launched a big appeal for a penalty, claiming handball against Sterling as the ball was cleared from the area, but nothing was given.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 19: Theo Walcott of Southampton during the Premier League match between Southampton and Manchester City at St Mary's Stadium on December 19, 2020 in Southampton, England. A limited number of fans (2000) are welcomed back to stadiums to watch elite football across England. This was following easing of restrictions on spectators in tiers one and two areas only. (Photo by Matt Watson/Southampton FC via Getty Images)
Theo Walcott gets on the ball at St Mary's (Photo: Matt Watson)

Redmond was also straight into the action, sending in a low shot that Ederson saved, before attempting to get on the end of a Walcott pull-back on 61 minutes, only to miss his left-footed effort as he stretched to reach it on the edge of the box.

Saints were almost made to pay for a mix-up between Vestergaard and Bertrand on the halfway line on 70 minutes, which allowed Silva to find De Bruyne in a great position down the inside-left, but his right-footed shot across goal was not his best and McCarthy got down to save.

On 72 minutes, Guardiola made his first swap, sending on Riyad Mahrez and withdrawing Torres.

20201219 Southampton v Manchester City
Jannik Vestergaard during the clash with Manchester City (Photo: Matt Watson)

The change came just before Saints again went close to equalising, as Walker-Peters started a slick move, finding Tella down the right, with his low delivery towards Adams in the middle being diverted by a sliding Stones, who sent it looping past Ederson towards the back post, where Adams only had enough of an angle to head wide having chased the ball down.

At the other end, McCarthy then did brilliantly to keep the deficit at one in the 78th minute, as he tipped wide a Gündogan effort from 25 yards that was destined for the top corner.

Hasenhüttl’s final switch came eight minutes from time, as Dan Nlundulu replaced Adams, but it was City's sub, Mahrez, who should have sealed it as the game went into five minutes of added time, only to side-foot over the bar from close range after Silva's chip to the back post had found him all alone.

The miss didn't affect the final outcome, though, as Saints ended the afternoon with a performance to be pleased with, but no points to show for it.

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Match sponsor: Unibet

Head to Head Stats

Manchester City
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Alex McCarthy (GK)
Ryan Bertrand
Kyle Walker-Peters
Jannik Vestergaard
Jan Bednarek
James Ward-Prowse (C) yellow card
Theo Walcott
Oriol Romeu yellow card
Moussa Djenepo
replace Nathan Redmond (59′)
Che Adams
replace Daniel N'Lundulu (82′)
Danny Ings
replace Nathan Tella (41′)
Mohammed Salisu
Stuart Armstrong
Nathan Redmond
Jack Stephens
Daniel N'Lundulu
Nathan Tella
Ibrahima Diallo
Fraser Forster
Shane Long

Manchester City

Ederson (GK) yellow card
João Cancelo
Kyle Walker
John Stones
Rúben Dias
Ilkay Gündogan
Bernardo Silva
Raheem Sterling goal
Kevin De Bruyne (C) yellow card
Ferran Torres
replace Riyad Mahrez (72′)
Nathan Aké
Riyad Mahrez
Oleksandr Zinchenko
Phil Foden
Scott Carson
Benjamin Mendy
Felix Nmecha
Sergio Agüero
Hasenhüttl ready to call on Diallo
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