30/11/2014: Saints 0-3 Man City
Saints were comprehensively beaten by Manchester City at St Marys. The Premier League champions leapfrogged Ronald Koeman's men to 2nd place in convincing fashion.
Saints reverted to their usual setup following last Monday's draw at Villa, with Steven Davis coming back in for Shane Long. City started much the better side, however. Manuel Pellegrini's men played as a real unit, hunting the ball down in packs and passing crisply. Saints matched their opponents' work rate early on and were well organised defensively, but struggled to get the ball forward.
City should have had a penalty inside the first 10 minutes when Sergio Aguero was sliced down by Jose Fonte. Incredibly the referee booked Aguero for diving. On 16 Yaya Toure's curled effort was comfortably saved by Fraser Forster. Having been on the back foot for the first 20 minutes, Saints suddenly came to life, with Joe Hart brilliantly saving from Graziano Pelle, Davis and then Dusan Tadic.
The hosts grew in confidence and took a more positive approach to the game as the half wore on. City were still incredibly dangerous on the counter, however. Stevan Jovetic beat Forster in the 30th minute only for Toby Alderweireld to brilliantly clear off the line. Pelle had half a chance from a corner, with the tempo slowing slightly as the half drew to a close.
Saints were forced into a change at half-time, with Maya Yoshida replacing the injured Morgan Schneiderlin. Alderweireld pushed up into defensive midfield, with Yoshida dropping in at the back. The Belgian almost made an immediate impact in his new role, shooting wide from distance.
The home side made a reasonably solid start to the second half, but City soon re-established their dominance. They were ahead on 51. Aguero pulled the ball back to Toure on the edge of the area, where the Ivorian shot through a crowd of players and into the bottom corner. City really took the sting out of Saints' play after that. The hosts were pretty flat and struggled to generate any sort of attacking threat.
Aguero could have put the game to bed, but fired over from close range. Saints were then handed a lifeline on 74 when City went down to 10 men. Substitute Long got the better of Yaya Toure before driving towards the penalty area. The Irishman was then bundled over by Eliaquim Mangala, who received his second booking of the afternoon.
That should have been the turning point, but in throwing so many men forward Saints were more vulnerable to City's counters. The visitors made their opponents pay on 80. James Milner pushed forward on the left after robbing Davis before squaring to Frank Lampard just outside the area. Lampard had enough time to steady himself before firing low into the corner.
Aguero was put through one-on-one a few moments later, only to be thwarted by Forster. At the other end Pelle couldn't quite get on the end of Long's cross. City grabbed a deserved third on 88 with another swift break. Aguero brilliantly played the ball across goal for Clichy, who hammered into the roof of the net. City were reduced to 9 in stoppage time when Vincent Kompany limped off, but Saints still couldn't find a way through.
A disappointing afternoon. Saints and City are still only separated by a single point, but the two sides looked worlds apart on this occasion. Everything clicked for the Manchester outfit, who displayed far more cohesion and energy than they did in their previous two visits to St Marys. There's a small chance the result might have been different had Morgan Schneiderlin remained on the pitch. The Frenchman is still our most important player and will be greatly missed if he's out for any of the upcoming fixtures. Saints were tentative in the early going, and lost their discipline after going a goal down. Worryingly we seem to have lost that spark going forward. Sadio Mane was ok, and Long made a bit of an impact after coming on but Tadic and Pelle were mostly quiet. The decision to loan Gaston Ramirez to Hull still seems like a baffling one given the lack of attacking alternatives. Saints will pick up again soon, but this upcoming run of fixtures is looking ever daunting for this stretched squad.
Forster: 6. Made one brilliant save from Aguero late on, and was well positioned for a few other City efforts
Clyne: 6. Not at his absolute best, but did make a few impressive clean tackles
Fonte: 6. Did well at times with a few brave blocks, but very lucky not to concede a penalty and a few other shaky moments
Alderweireld: 7. Tailed off a bit during the last 30 minutes or so, but displayed plenty of class on the ball prior to that. Positional sense in defence good, notably for the goal-line clearance
Bertrand: 6. Made a few decent runs down the left flank
Schneiderlin: 7. Saints' best player in the first half. Tackled well and worked the ball out of some congested areas. Missed hugely after going off at half-time
Wanyama: 6. A reasonable showing
Davis: 5. Made some good runs in the first half, but delivery mostly disappointing and partially at fault for the 2nd goal
Mane: 6. Neat and tidy on the ball without really penetrating City's defence . Did well to win a few free-kicks
Tadic: 5. Involved in a couple of good pieces of play either side of half-time, but otherwise a bit disappointing. Set pieces poor
Pelle: 6. Took up some good positions, and a couple of moments of magic, but overall fairly quiet again
Yoshida: 5. Not the best of games to come back into having not played for so long. Could have arguably done better for one of the goals conceded, but a couple of good interceptions
Long: 6. Made a bit of an impact immediately after coming on with some good direct running which led to the red card
Mayuka: Offered very little after coming on
Man City - Toure (51) Lampard (80) Clichy (88)
Attendance: 30,919 (2,596 Man City fans)
Referee: Mike Jones
Saints: Forster, Clyne, Fonte, Alderweireld, Bertrand, Schneiderlin (Yoshida 46), Wanyama, S Davis (Mayuka 82) , Mane (Long 68), Tadic, Pelle
Subs not used: K Davis, Gardos, Targett, Reed
Man City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Mangala, Clichy, Fernandinho, Toure, Navas (Demichellis 76), Nasri (Lampard 65), Jovetic (Milner 55), Aguero
Subs not used: Caballero, Sagna, Fernando, Pozo