Goals in either half from Gastón Ramírez and Jos Hooiveld secured Saints’ progression into the last 16 of the Capital One Cup.
Southampton were 2-0 winners on the night at St Mary’s, but it wasn’t perhaps as comfortable as the scoreline suggests at times for the hosts, who particularly in the second half came under pressure from a visiting side that seemed to have nothing to lose.
Ramirez opened the scoring in style on 15 minutes with a terrific volley from James Ward-Prowse’s header back into the area, and it looked as though that would open the floodgates against a Robins side that is yet to win in the league this season.
City have been one of Saints’ bogey teams in recent years, with all four of the previous meetings going the way of the Bristolians, but that run was ended with seven minutes of the 90 remaining when Jos Hooiveld crashed in a header from James Ward-Prowse’s corner to seal progress into round four.
Mauricio Pochettino named a completely changed starting eleven from the team that won at Liverpool. Club Captain Kelvin Davis returned in goal, whilst Tadanari Lee came in for his first start since the tail end of the Championship promotion winning season.
Omar Rowe and Harrison Reed retained their places in the squad from the last round of this competition, whilst there were two more debutants in the First Team squad, as young defenders Matthew Targett and Jason McCarthy were added to the matchday 18.
Visitors Bristol City got the match underway with Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Bobby Reid getting the match underway, with the Robins lining up in their changed strip of black shirts and white shorts.
Saints settled into an early rhythm with a composed and comfortable style they stroked the ball around to use the full width of the St Mary’s surface.
There were some promising early moves from the hosts starting from the back, but the first opening of the match saw Steven Davis and Jack Cork link up in midfield, with the latter crossing into the box towards Ramirez, but the delivery had a touch too much on it for the Uruguayan to work with.
City responded with some neat passing of their own as they came back at Saints. Jos Hooiveld’s mis-timed challenge on Reid saw the game’s first booking issued to the centre back, as the Robins looked to punce from the resulting set piece 25 yards from goal.
After some deliberation as to who was going to take it, the ball was rolled into the path of Emmanuel-Thomas, whose drilled strike flew off the block from Tadanari Lee and looped over Kelvin Davis’s crossbar.
Then, on 15 the deadlock was broken as an undeterred Saints went back up the other end with Ward-Prowse seeing a shot blocked on the edge of the area. The rebound fell back to the midfielder who cushioned a header back into the area, where a thumping first time volley hit by RAMIREZ crashed into the back of the net for a brilliantly taken goal to open the scoring.
The breakthrough strike didn’t change the immediate pattern of the game however, as both teams continued to push.
The visitors almost got through when Stephen McLaughlin drilled a low pass in towards Reid, but Calum Chambers was able to shepherd the ball back to Kelvin Davis, who quickly jumped on the loose ball to gather it safely.
At the other end on 23 minutes, Lee received the ball from a chipped Ramirez pass, and with his back to goal, the Japanese tried to spin and strike a shot into net, but Parish was quickly off his line to divert the ball behind for a corner.
On the half hour, Saints got their slick passing game together again in City’s half with Guly, Lee and Ward-Prowse involved to tee up Ramirez once more, and this time he curled a shot just wide of the far post with Parish rooted to his spot.
Lee created a chance for himself moments later, hitting a stinging rising shot that Parish had to turn away for a corner at his near post as Saints started to turn the screw, with Lee looking particularly energised by his latest chance.
City did come back again with Emmanuel-Thomas cutting in on the right to work Kelvin Davis low to his left, and the gritty determination from Saints’ opponents reminded the hosts that they were far from safe in the tie as the match moved towards half time.
Saints continued to create though with Fox and Steven Davis linking up to find Guly inside the area, but the Brazilian rushed his shot as he failed to make a clean connection on the strike.
Guly remained lively in attack and soon after, he teed up Ramirez who tried to bend another strike into the far corner, but again had too much on the strike which went wide of the right post.
The half’s last chance for City fell to centre back Derrick Williams, whose header cleared the bar as Kelvin Davis remained largely untroubled in the hosts’ goal.
Saints weren’t done for the opening 45 minutes though, with Chambers producing a couple of step-overs before putting in a cross which took a heavy deflection towards goal, forcing Parish into a save. From the resulting corner, the ball was cleared into the path of Jack Cork, whose fierce rising shot produced a smart save from Parish.
Another corner in the dying embers of the half saw Yoshida attempt to make the most of Cork’s header on Ward-Prowse’s corner, but the centre back ended up diverting the ball over the bar before the whistle blew for the interval.
HALF-TIME: SOUTHAMPTON 1-0 BRISTOL CITY
There were no changes from either side at the break as the action resumed with Steven Davis and Tadanari Lee restarting the action from halfway.
The pair linked up again almost immediately on the near touchline where Lee set Davis for a cross that Ward-Prowse almost connected to as he made a late dart into the area.
In the 48th minute, Guly headed Ward-Prowse’s corner towards goal, but Parish was behind the effort and managed to gather the ball at the second time of asking.
A swift counter-attack from the Robins resulted in Joe Bryan forcing Kelvin Davis into his first real save as the ‘keeper made a decent low save with his outstretched arm to deny the shot from sneaking in at the corner.
Bryan’s effort preceded another good opening from a corner for Saints with Jos Hooiveld the man this this time to connect with a Ward-Prowse corner, but the Dutchman’s header cleared the bar without testing Parish.
On 56, Guly took aim from range once more, but his drilled strike from the edge of the box was comfortable for Parish.
With Saints yet to find what would surely be a killer second goal, the game seemed to open out again, with the visitors then having their best chance of the contest. Bryan got to the byline to flash a low delivery to the far post, where Emmanuel-Thomas couldn’t quite divert the ball on target on the slide from six yards out.
That was followed up by Kelvin Davis being tested again a couple of minutes later, as he produced a splendid one handed save to push Reid’s looping shot over the bar as it crept towards the corner.
Those warnings continued when Emmanuel-Thomas again made a nuisance of himself on the right flank to deliver a dangerous cross to the far post which McLaughlin just needed a touch on to put the ball past Davis, but fortunately for Saints, he missed it completely.
City’s Marlon Pack drove an ambitious effort wide, and Danny Fox headed away well under pressure from McLaughlin before the visitors made their first substitution of the evening with experienced frontman Marlon Harewood entering the action in place of Bryan.
Saints weathered the storm before making a double change with both Harrison Reed and Jay Rodriguez replacing Guly and Tadanari Lee with 17 minutes remaining.
There was still little change as a City side growing in confidence maintained their threat on the Saints goal with Shorey providing a driving cross that Harewood should have done better with inside the six yard box, as the ball escaped his outstretched boot.
On 76, Neil Kilenny came on in place of Scott Wagstaff in City’s midfield, before Saints finally regained their composure.
The substitutes nearly combined perfectly as Reed broke down the left flank to cross for Rodriguez, but the forward’s shot skied over at the near post.
Reed was involved again in the supply of another cross - this time from the right – but the ball was headed away to safety.
The resulting corner yielded the decisive second goal as Ward-Prowse’s whipped delivery eas met by the towering head of HOOIVELD whose header crept in at the near post for 2-0.
City made one last roll of the dice with striker Sam Baldock replacing Reid on 84 minutes, but it was one-way traffic from then on with Saints controlling the remaining minutes of the contest.
Omar Rowe was Saints’ third and final change, with the winger replacing Steven Davis with four minutes to play.
Ward-Prowse flashed a drive wide in the closing stages, whilst Rodriguez also proved a handful for the City backline late on, but there was no repeat of the previous round’s late efforts as Saints settled for a two goal victory.
FULL-TIME: SOUTHAMPTON 2-0 BRISTOL CITY
Southampton team: Kelvin Davis (c), Calum Chambers, Maya Yoshida, Jos Hooiveld, Danny Fox, Jack Cork, Steven Davis (Omar Rowe 86), James Ward-Prowse, Gaston Ramirez, Tadanari Lee, (Jay Rodriguez 73) Guly do Prado (Harrison Reed 73)
Unused substitutes: Paulo Gazzaniga, Adam Lallana, Matthew Targett, Jason McCarthy
Goals: Gaston Ramirez, 15; Jos Hooiveld, 83
Bristol City team: Elliot Parish, Brendan Maloney, Derrick Williams, Aden Flint, Nicky Shorey, Scott Wagstaff (Neil Kilkenny, 76), Joe Bryan (Marlon Harewood 69), Marlon Pack, Bobby Reid (Sam Baldock 84), Stephen McLaughlin, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas
Unused substitutes: Frank Fielding, Greg Cunningham, Mitch Brundle, Wes Burns.
Referee: Graham Scott
Attendance: 8,539 (including 531 away)