REPORT: Manchester City 3-1 Southampton
Southampton’s unbeaten away start to the Barclays Premier League season came to an end with a 3-1 defeat away to Manchester City.
Saints, who had conceded just four goals in their six away games before the trip to the Etihad Stadium, were two goals behind inside 20 minutes as Kevin De Bruyne and Fabian Delph found the net.
Shane Long, leading the line in the absence of the suspended Graziano Pellè, handed Saints a lifeline four minutes into the second half, but Aleksandar Kolarov’s powerful strike restored City’s two-goal advantage.
Despite pressure late on, City kept Saints at bay to inflict a first defeat away from home this season on Ronald Koeman’s men.
The Saints boss made four changes to the side that lost 1-0 at home to Stoke City a week previously, as Maya Yoshida came in for Cédric at right-back, while Sadio Mané replaced the suspended Pellè and Oriol Romeu and James Ward-Prowse started in place of Jordy Clasie and Dušan Tadić.
The size of Saints’ task was made evident by the fact Manchester City had not lost three games in a row in all competitions since November 2010.
And the hosts, coming into the game following losses to Liverpool and Juventus, made a bright start that Koeman’s men were unable to cope with.
The deadlock was broken with just nine minutes on the clock as Raheem Sterling robbed Yoshida of the ball, advanced towards goal and teed up De Bruyne to tap home from close range.
After Maarten Stekelenburg had kept out Sergio Agüero, City doubled their advantage with 20 minutes gone.
De Bruyne’s low corner found an unmarked Delph on the edge of the box, who saw his first-time shot find the back of the net after taking a deflection off Virgil van Dijk to wrong-foot Stekelenburg.
Saints’ first shot at goal was inches away from handing Koeman’s men a route back into the game. Van Dijk was the man to try his luck – finding space 25 yards from goal – but his venomous strike crashed off the crossbar and bounced away to safety.
Following Joe Hart’s injury in midweek, Willy Caballero was in goal for the hosts and twice made important saves to deny Saints.
Victor Wanyama was the first to be thwarted, as Caballero pushed away his volley after he had dropped Ward-Prowse’s corner.
Long, leading the line in the absence of Pellè then had his first chance of the game after being played in by Ward-Prowse, but the Republic of Ireland international saw his powerful strike beaten away by Caballero.
Saints’ disappointing half was compounded when captain José Fonte was forced to make way through injury just before the break, with Steven Caulker the man to replace him.
Whatever Koeman said to his players at half time worked, as Saints pulled one back with just four minutes of the second half gone.
A quick free-kick afforded Mané plenty of time to cross the ball to the back post, where Long was waiting to head home his fifth goal of the season in all competitions for Saints.
City looked stunned by the response from Saints at the start of the second half, and substitute Dušan Tadić had a great chance to level on the hour mark.
The Serbian picked up Ward-Prowse’s pass and was afforded time and space to drive into the penalty area, but his clipped effort was pushed away by Caballero.
Another Tadić effort, this time from distance, was pushed away by Caballero as Saints upped the ante. But, in their bid to find an equaliser, Saints were undone by an incisive City break.
After neat play between Sterling and De Bruyne, the latter clipped the ball over the top of the Saints defence for Kolarov, who fired home smartly.
The visitors continued to press, with Mané again threatening and having a shot well saved by Caballero, but City held firm to take all three points.
Koeman will now look to lift his men quickly ahead of Wednesday night’s Capital One Cup quarter-final clash with Liverpool at St Mary’s.
Manchester City: Wily Caballero, Bacary Sagna, Martin Demichelis, Nicolas Otamendi, Aleksandar Kolarov, Fabian Delph (Fernando 71), Fernandinho, Kevin De Bruyne, Yaya Touré, Raheem Sterling (David Silva 75), Sergio Agüero (Wilfried Bony 64)
Unused substitutes: Richard Wright, Gaël Clichy, Jesus Navas, Kelechi Iheanacho.
Goals: De Bruyne (9), Delph (20), Kolarov (69)
Bookings: Demichelis (56)
Southampton: Maarten Stekelenburg, Maya Yoshida, José Fonte (c) (Steven Caulker 36), Virgil van Dijk, Ryan Bertrand, Victor Wanyama, Oriol Romeu (Dušan Tadić 46), James Ward-Prowse (Juanmi 77), Sadio Mané, Steven Davis, Shane Long.
Unused substitutes: Kelvin Davis, Cuco Martina, Jordy Clasie, Gastón Ramírez.
Goal: Long (49)
Bookings: Ward-Prowse (55)
Referee: Roger East