Che Adams’ incredible chip was the difference as Southampton’s resolute defending saw the Saints beat Manchester City 1-0 at St Mary’s.
Adams, making his first Premier League start since December 2019, got possession of the ball after Oleksandr Zinchenko lost possession in the middle of the field. The former Birmingham striker lobbed the ball over Ederson from 35 yards out to score his first goal in the red, white and black of Southampton.
Southampton made three changes to their starting eleven, Che Adams being one. Jack Stephens and Stuart Armstrong also came in, with Shane Long, Jannik Vestergaard and Will Smallbone dropping out of the team. City made changes too, with several key players afforded a rest like Kyle Walker and Kevin de Bruyne after Pep Guardiola’s side beat champions Liverpool 4-0 in the week.
Southampton started brightly, with City’s weak defending giving Southampton the chance to get ahead just 6 minutes in, with Nathan Redmond missing a kick in what should’ve been an easy tap-in for the Englishman.
For the most part, it was Manchester City’s possession play against Southampton seizing opportunities through interceptions and challenges. Indeed this is how Southampton’s goal came about, but City upped the pressure on the Saints after Adams’ strike, with Bernardo Silva falling in the penalty area under a weak challenge by Romeu and Bednarek, but no penalty was given. Minutes later Joao Cancelo whipped the ball across the face of the goal, with Gabriel Jesus unable to keep it down and finish into an open net.
City continued to come close – shortly after the drinks break, Raheem Sterling was picked up by Joao Cancelo running in behind the Saints’ defensive line, with Danny Ings clearing the ball away. Moments later, Alex McCarthy was put under huge pressure, making two saves in quick succession from Raheem Sterling and David Silva either side of a sweet right-footed strike from Fernandinho which hit the right post.
Southampton came close to doubling their lead as the pace picked up just before half time. Short passing play let the ball fall for Kyle Walker-Peters, playing a beautiful ball forward to Danny Ings who just couldn’t get the finishing touch on the ball.
Manchester City had the first real chance of the second half, as Mahrez’s corner fell to Laporte at the far post who couldn’t quite get his head on it. Shortly afterwards, Alex McCarthy was called back into action as Fernndinho’s cross found Aymeric Laporte, who couldn’t finish; nor could Gabriel Jesus whose shot was saved by McCarthy, with Walker-Peters clearing the ball to safety in a relentless couple of minutes for the Southampton defence. And it didn’t stop there: David Silva was played through by Oleksandr Zinchenko, only for McCarthy to parry the Spaniard’s shot away. The Saints’ defence continued to withstand the relentless pressure from the Blues.
Southampton will have been grateful for the drinks break, but they had their best chance of the second half when Che Adams was played through on goal. Ederson however came off his line and this time rescued City with a fantastic challenge. Ederson was also forced to make another good save, this time from Armstrong whose powerful strike was blocked by the Brazilian’s left foot.
The final ten minutes saw huge pressure from Man City, with the inclusion of de Bruyne and Foden from the bench seeing shot after shot – a short spell of crosses and possession around the Southampton penalty area ended with an overcooked shot from Laporte.
City came close to a late equaliser, with Joao Cancelo’s cross unable to be parried away by Alex McCarthy, but ending up gratefully tapped away. With the final kick of the game, a free kick from just outside the penalty area, Kevin de Bruyne hit the wall.
Defeat means, for the first time under Pep Guardiola, the Citizens have lost three consecutive away games and sit 23 points behind Liverpool, who beat relegation-threatened Aston Villa 2-0 earlier on Sunday. Meanwhile, Hassenhuttl’s Saints, who head to Goodison Park in their next game, have lost just once since the restart and are now mathematically safe, ensuring that St Mary’s will play host to Premier League action once again in 2020-21.
Analysis: An incredible defensive performance – Hassenhuttl is most definitely the right man for Saints in the long term
This Southampton side looks worlds away from the side that were humbled – in this season – 9-0 at home to Leicester in the biggest ever home defeat in a top flight league match in the Football League’s 131 years. When the Austrian manager said he took responsibility for the defeat after the game, he meant it – he has made changes to tactics, line-ups (Angus Gunn hasn’t started a Premier League game since) and lo and behold, the Saints are safe again.
Their defensive performance was admirable, and to keep a clean sheet against Manchester City is no easy feat. The Saints, who sat through City’s 26 shots on goal and their 74% possession, looked unbreakable with fantastic challenges, blocks, interceptions and not least some incredible saves from goalkeeper Alex McCarthy. Watching the game, you’d have thought the Saints had something to play for – they’re not entirely out of the race for the Europa League, but it would be a huge surprise – but their spirited display made Manchester City look average, and especially in the first half, poor on the ball.
Saints fans can be excited by this display, and indeed a lot of what they have seen since the turn of the year. This was by far one of their better displays at the back and, though they didn’t pose much of a threat going forward, what mustn’t be ignored is Che Adams’ vision to spot Ederson – a goalkeeper frequently getting off his line – in a vulnerable position. Hassenhuttl said in the week that “Che’s moment will come” – and boy, did it come with a strike like that.
City, on the other hand, suffer their ninth defeat of the season – three more than they lost in the entirety of their two previous title-winning seasons combined – and they look like they’ll need something in the next transfer window if they want to get back on Liverpool’s level. A replacement to David Silva would be a good investment, though many City fans may argue that Phil Foden is indeed ready to fill the void that would be left by the Spaniard’s imminent departure. Whoever and whatever the changes are that City make, they are a long, long way off champions Liverpool.
Southampton: McCarthy, Walker-Peters, Stephens, Bednarek, Bertrand, Armstrong (Smallbone 90’+7’), Ward-Prowse, Romeu (Booked), Redmond, Ings, Adams (Long 70’). Unused Subs: Djenepo, Obafemi, Gunn, Vokins, Danso, Ferry, Jankewitz.
Manchester City: Ederson, Cancelo, García, Laporte, Zinchenko, Bernardo Silva, Fernandinho (Booked), David Silva, Mahrez (Foden 58’), Jesus (Booked), Sterling (de Bruyne 58’). Unused Subs: Bravo, Stones, Gundogan, Rodri, Otamendi, Doyle, Harwood-Bellis.
Wessex Scene Man of the Match: Alex McCarthy (Southampton)
Referee: Andre Marriner