Manchester City came from behind to defeat a vastly improved Southampton 2-1 after Kyle Walker’s 86-minute winner.
Ralph Hasenhuttl made three changes from their humiliating 0-9 defeat at home to Leicester eight days ago, with Alex McCarthy, Jack Stephens and Stuart Armstrong all handed starts. It paid dividends as the Saints looked a totally different side and proved clinical with their only attack of the opening period. Nathan Redmond found Stuart Armstrong on the edge of the box; his shot was parried into the feet of James Ward-Prowse, who pounced on Ederson’s error and lifted the ball instinctively over the keeper to give Southampton an early lead against the champions.
The Saints went into the break with their one-goal advantage; and whilst City managed 14 shots to the Saints’ three, they had failed to muster a single shot on target. The closest City came to an equaliser was via centre-back John Stones, who headed over Ilkay Gundogan’s cross.
City improved drastically in the second half, playing at a faster tempo and greater intensity. An error from defender Jack Stephens presented a glorious chance for Sergio Aguero to level the score on the hour-mark, but he uncharacteristically headed over from close range. City came close to breaking the deadlock when Bernardo Silva’s strike was acrobatically saved by McCarthy. McCarthy was then guilty of collecting Jan Bednarek’s backpass, but Kevin De Bruyne curled the resulting free-kick inches wide of the right post.
The Saints’ resistance was finally broken with 20 minutes remaining, as Walker’s low-drilled cross (their 46th in open play) was met by Aguero, who fired the ball under the legs of McCarthy. Holding onto a valuable point proved too surmountable a task for the Saints, as Angelino’s cross was not cleared and Walker buried the loose ball to net the winner. City almost scored a third if not for the feet of McCarthy, whose smart save denied Gabriel Jesus in added time.
Whilst the result leaves the Saints 18th in the table – two points adrift of safety – the determination, organisation and resilience signals a vast improvement since the Leicester debacle. The Saints put in an incredible defensive display, making it difficult for City to create clear-cut chances through a compact shape, forcing City to send it wide and deliver countless crosses.
Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl told BBC Sport after the match:
To come here twice after losing 9-0 is not the easiest moment for a team but I think it was a chance to show up today, and we did, and it was really a pity that we didn’t get something for the amazing work we did today… Our squad today was unbelievably committed, and unbelievable defending, following the game-plan and investing so much in defending our net.
It was very difficult today for City to create chances – I don’t think they had a lot, only at the end was it open because we wanted the equaliser but until then I think they haven’t seen a lot of chances.
They had a lot of possession, yes sure, that is normal against this team but I think this was the only way how we could play against such an opponent. We did it in a fantastic way.
Next up for Southampton in the Premier League is a home game to Everton; the Saints will be hoping for a repeat of last year’s 2-1 victory.