Saints recorded one of their most famous wins in recent memory, seeing off Manchester City 3-1 at St Marys. Mauricio Pochettino's men put in a superb performance, and were dominant from start to finish.
Pochettino had to do without the injured Luke Shaw and Gaston Ramirez, with Danny Fox and Steven Davis stepping in as replacements. Saints got about City from kick-off. Pochettino's pressing game - which is already becoming very familiar - really rattled the visitors. City were thrown off their game, and forced into errors throughout. The opening goal summed up Saints' approach. Jason Puncheon won possession just inside the City half, before taking the ball forward and driving towards the middle. Jay Rodriguez was played through on goal, only to have his shot blocked by Joe Hart. The ball then came back out to Puncheon, who had a relatively simple finish. Saints continued to do most of the pressing. City moved the ball about fairly quickly, but struggled to find a way through. Roberto Mancini's men attempted to hit on the counter, but had trouble creating too many worthwhile opportunities. Saints got plenty of men back when City had the ball, closing off space in threatening areas. The home side were still prepared to commit men forward too. It was 2-0 on 22 minutes. Rickie Lambert brilliantly turned his man on the right-hand side, before firing a shot at Hart. The City keeper let the ball slip through his body, with Steven Davis following in on the rebound.
Saints were not helped by referee Martin Atkinson in the first-half. The man in black was responsible for a string of strange decisions which went in City's favour. Firstly Lambert was cautioned for a foul on Joleon Lescott. Then Jos Hooiveld was booked when Edin Dzeko went tumbling over the defender's foot. An official as experienced as Atkinson shouldn't have fallen for such a blatant dive. Fortunately the resulting set-piece from Sergio Aguero came to nothing.
Saints did occasionally slow the pace of the game down, passing the ball all the way back to Boruc before regrouping. The home side were in control throughout, and had further chances to increase the lead. Rodriguez went close, before Nathaniel Clyne had a deflected shot fly over the bar. City then got back into the game with a goal on the counter. Saints inexplicably gave the ball away at a corner. The away side broke with incredible speed, with Pablo Zabaleta and David Silva linking up down the right. The ball eventually found its way to Dzeko in the box, who flicked in a tame effort. It was a poor goal to concede, but pretty much the only blemish in a near perfect performance. Saints should have been given the opportunity to restore their two goal lead shortly before half-time, when Rodriguez was bundled over by Yaya Toure in the box.
Saints continued from where they left off at the start of the second half. Puncheon really should have made it 3-1, clearing the bar from a Lambert cut-back just after the re-start. Fortunately Saints would be handed an absolute gift a few moments later. Lambert played a harmless ball across the face of goal, with City's Gareth Barry hilariously passing into the corner of his own net. City switched to a 3-5-2 later in the match in an attempt to stretch Saints. Most expected a late avalanche from the away side, but it never really arrived. City did create a few chances, but struggled to mount any sustained pressure. Saints had a few more half-chances, but did tire slightly as the game wore on. Adam Lallana replaced Puncheon, who was just starting to run out of steam. Fox was unfortunate to go off injured. He was replaced by Frazer Richardson, who was deployed at right-back, with Clyne moving to the left. Perhaps the most important change was the last one, with James Ward-Prowse coming on for Davis. Saints did very well to keep the ball in the final 10 minutes or so. The home side were almost toying with the Premier League champions, who never looked like getting back into it.
A truly incredible occasion. I'm struggling to think of a more impressive team display in all my years as a Saints fan. The 3-2 win over Arsenal in 2002/03 is the only one that comes close, but even then we weren't quite as dominant. You can't play like that against teams like Manchester City with passengers. Everyone played to their absolute maximum and deserves credit. Apart from the goal it's very difficult to find any flaws in the team's performance. Pochettino has created the right balance between attack and defence. We were always well protected at the back, while we were never without options going forward. It's still early days, but it looks as if we might have found a real gem in Pochettino. Assuming he carries on at this rate, Nicola Cortese's decision to bring in the Argentinian for Nigel Adkins will soon be vindicated.
Attendance: 31,798 (3,129 Man City fans)
Boruc: 8. Made a string of fine fingertip saves to prevent a City comeback
Clyne: 8. Didn't give too much away defensively, while also supporting Puncheon superbly on the right
Yoshida: 9. A total class act, read the game superbly. Looks to be really enjoying playing in the new system
Hooiveld: 9. Didn't put a foot wrong all game. Positioning and timing spot on. Strong in the air too
Fox: 8. Lost possession by needlessly hesitating with the ball in the first half, but otherwise a very good display. Made a number of good forward runs. Delivery very good.
Cork: 9. Defensively superb. Nullified City's most threatening players, but also very good on the ball.
Schneiderlin: 9. Another fine showing. Had the better of Yaya Toure all afternoon. Made so many interceptions and tackles, a real giant in midfield
Puncheon: 8. Brilliant at winning the ball back and hitting City on the counter. Deserved his goal
Davis: 9. Another great impact from Saints' most underrated player. Was everywhere
Rodriguez: 8. Superb movement. City struggled to cope with the much improved former Burnley man
Lambert: 9. If this performance doesn't get him noticed by Roy Hodgson then nothing will. Did superbly drifting out wide and cutting inside. Two great assists
Lallana: 7. Kept things ticking in midfield.
Richardson: 7. First appearance for some time. Limited City with a solid defensive display
Ward-Prowse: Helped a tiring Saints side retain the ball better in the closing stages