05/04/2014: Manchester City 4-1 Saints

Saints were comfortably beaten in the end by title challengers Manchester City. Mauricio Pochettino's side matched their opponents for much of the first half, but were undone by a late City flurry and some poor refereeing.

City made a bright start to the game, with an early onslaught on the Saints goal. They were handed a penalty in only the third minute. Jose Fonte clipped Edin Dzeko in the box. On first viewing it seemed harsh, but while Dzeko did go down fairly easily, Fonte's leg was out. Yaya Toure sent Paulo Gazzaniga the wrong way from the spot.

City continued to attack with purpose in the immediate aftermath, with Samir Nasri dragging wide on 5 minutes. By the quarter hour mark the game had settled down slightly. Saints were involved in some tidy pieces of play down the flanks, and floated in a number of deep balls into the box, but nothing which troubled the City backline. On 19 minutes Adam Lallana had a looping header fly harmlessly over the bar following a Calum Chambers cross.

Play was halted for several minutes when Jay Rodriguez went down in agony after landing awkwardly near the half-way line. He was eventually forced off with suspected ligament damage. Saints introduced James Ward-Prowse to proceedings and began to dominate possession without really penetrating City. On 28 minutes Rickie Lambert's free-kick went well wide of Joe Hart's near post.

City had quite a lot of the ball just outside the Southampton penalty area, but rarely found a way through a sturdy defence. Dzeko got away from his man at a free-kick before heading onto the bar. Saints responded well to that let off. Jack Cork broke free in the box before being taken down by Pablo Zabaleta in the 37th minute. Lambert made no mistake from the spot.

Saints looked comfortable heading into half-time, with Ward-Prowse flashing a dangerous corner across goal on 43. City's quality would shine through before the half-time whistle, however. A swift interchange between Toure, Dzeko, David Silva resulted in the second goal, with Nasri nipping in for a simple finish. Silva was at least a couple of yards offside, yet somehow escaped the attention of the officials. Just to rub further salt into the wounds, City made it 3-1 a minute later. Aleksander Kolarov got to the byline before whipping a cross in for Dzeko, who headed in before the onrushing Gazzaniga.

City found a lot more room on the break in the 2nd half. Saints had a fair amount of possession, but once again, didn't really do a lot with it. Kolarov had a shot deflected over on 56. Three minutes later Dzeko shot straight at Gazzaniga before firing wide on the rebound. On 62 Lallana and Lambert were involved in a nice piece of play of the edge of the box, but couldn't quite thread their way through.

Both sides took it in turns to attack, without really stretching each other too much. City looked fairly comfortable defending their lead for the most part. Saints' best 2nd half chance fell to Lambert, who dragged wide from a difficult angle on 75. There seemed to be some uneasiness in the City defence when it came to aerial balls, but Saints couldn't quite exploit this potential weakness, with Hart taking command of the area. City added a fourth when Steven Jovetic completed a simple finish from Nasri's cross. The ball had evaded Fonte, Dejan Lovren and Gazzaniga on the way to the Montenegrin. City had a few more chances before the final whistle, but anything more than four would have been really harsh on Saints.

Kind of a strange game on reflection. Neither side were at their best, but Saints were holding City quite comfortably until the linesman's error. It's not unreasonable to suggest that the complexion of the game was completely altered at that moment. Saints never offered much of an attacking threat, but were well drilled as a defensive unit during the first half, and might have made more of a game of it in the second had that decision gone the way it should have.

Perhaps even more disappointing than the result was the injury to Jay Rodriguez. The forward must have propelled his way into Roy Hodgson's thinking in recent weeks with a fine run of form, but now looks likely to miss out on his World Cup dream. It would be such a shame considering the work he has put in this season. He is probably worthy of a spot in the final 23, but may have now been cruelly denied his chance.

Attendance: 47,009

Match Ratings

Gazzaniga: 5. Made a couple of decent saves, but could have done better for the 3rd and 4th goals

Chambers: 6. Tidy on the ball, but occasionally looked a bit uneasy in defence

Fonte: 6. A bit of a mixed afternoon. Made a few mistakes, but also put in some big tackles, and usually well positioned

Lovren: 6. Passing a bit off in the second half, but fairly sound defensively for most of the match

Shaw: 6. Uncharacteristically suspect defensively at times, but some good forward runs throughout the 90

Cork: 7. Protected the back four quite well. Not quite as effective in the 2nd half, but overall a solid outing

Schneiderlin: 7. Excellent at breaking up play, and plenty of quality on the ball

Davis: 6. Steady on the ball, but didn't really create too much

Lallana: 6. Had his moments. Foxed City players with his skill on more than one occasion, but couldn't quite find that killer ball

Rodriguez: 6. Made a couple of decent runs with the ball and displayed some good movement before his unfortunate injury

Lambert: 6. Another penalty. Did get into a few good shooting positions, but passing and general play not quite up to the level of recent weeks

Substitutes

Ward-Prowse: 7. Imposed himself on the midfield really well. Put in a few testing set pieces

Gallagher: 5. Not involved too much

Wanyama: Good to see him back on the pitch. Game was long gone by the time he came on