Raheem Sterling’s first-half strike proved decisive as Manchester City beat Southampton 1-0 at St Mary’s.
The Saints brought in Moussa Djenepo in place of Stuart Armstrong but it was an otherwise familiar line-up for Saints fans to enjoy, thanks to Southampton remaining in Tier Two restrictions in England, permitting fans in at St Mary’s Stadium.
A calm first ten minutes or so saw City withstanding immense pressure from the Saints, but it was the visitors who looked the more dominant side, with a few slight chances going their way; Raheem Sterling and Joao Cancelo both had opportunities saved by Alex McCarthy in the home side’s goal.
It was, however, the England winger who got his name on the scoresheet – Kevin De Bruyne’s run allowed him to cut one back to Sterling who finished well past the Saints ‘keeper to give the visitors the lead.
A good period of Southampton putting their guests under pressure ensued, with great chances falling for Jannik Vestergaard, Che Adams and Theo Walcott, all of whom failed to hit the back of the net.
Their dominance, though, failed to pay off and it went from bad to worse for Southampton when star striker Danny Ings pulled up with what appeared to be a hamstring injury, according to boss Ralph Hasenhuttl. He was replaced by Tella, but the half wrapped up with nothing more to report, bar a concerned look on the Saints boss’ face as he headed back into the changing rooms.
A lively start for the visitors in the second half amounted to nothing but a few missed chances, including a promising Bernardo Silva corner headed away by the towering Vestergaard.
City looked like wrapping up the points when Ilkay Gundogan ran through and drilled a shot towards goal, but for a fingertip save from the outstretched McCarthy.
Several chances fell to Riyad Mahrez to finish the game off in stoppage time, but nothing came of them and the match ended, seeing Manchester City claim all three points in Southampton.
The Saints, who failed to score in a league game for the first time since the opening day of the season (in their away defeat to Crystal Palace), dropped to fifth and could be ninth by the end of the weekend – it is clear that wins are the only way for any team to keep in contention for European spots this season.
Up next for the Saints is a Boxing Day trip up the M3 to London, as they visit Craven Cottage to take on strugglers Fulham, before they host West Ham to wrap up 2020 on December 29. They’ll be without Oriol Romeu on Boxing Day – he’s suspended after having picked up another yellow card today.
FT: SOUTHAMPTON 0-1 Manchester City (Sterling 13′).
Southampton: McCarthy, Walker-Peters, Bednarek, Vestergaard, Bertrand, Walcott, Ward-Prowse (booked), Romeu (booked), Djenepo (Redmond 59′), Ings (Tella 41′), Adams (N’Lundulu 82′). Unused Subs: Stephens, Long, Armstrong, Salisu, Diallo, Forster.
Manchester City: Ederson (booked), Walker, Stones, Dias, Cancelo, Gundogan, Rodri, B. Silva, De Bruyne (booked), Sterling, Torres (Mahrez 72′). Unused Subs: Carson, Aké, Aguero, Zinchenko, Mendy, Fernandinho, Foden, Nmecha.
Wessex Scene Man of the Match: Raheem Sterling (Manchester City).