- Ben King
Premier League champions held at St. Mary's – Southampton 1-1 Manchester City Review
The league leaders dropped points for the first time in 12 games against a hard-working and well-organised Southampton side. The defending champions currently have a 12 point lead at the top of the table, but Liverpool have two games in hand and close the gap to just 6 points.
Pep Guardiola only had Zack Steffen, Oleksander Zinchenko, Cole Palmer and Riyad Mahrez unavailable for selection, and so we effectively saw the same team that played against Chelsea. Guardiola did make one tactical change. Ruben Dias came back in for John Stones, who was unlucky to miss out after he was imperious against the European Champions.
It was an unusual start to the game, but as Kyle Walker had warned in his recent interview Southampton are one of the sides that have caused City problems this season. Raheem Sterling had an opportunity to put Kyle Walker in a position to make a threatening cross but failed to make the simple pass, which was a taste of what was to come for the rest of Sterling's game. Southampton capitalised on this mistake and through a clinical counter-attack, Kyle-Walker Peters scored an excellent opener for the hosts.
Southampton continued to make things uncomfortable for the Premier League Champions as Armando Broja had a goal ruled out for offside and would have probably been awarded a penalty after a foul from Ederson, had he not been offside once again.
There were not many bright moments for City in the first half, but Jack Grealish looked really positive. He is a figure that has been heavily criticised this season, but it is only fair when he does have a good game that he gets the praise. At one point, Pep Guardiola could be seen to shout 'Jack, attack' and that was what he began to do as he consistently ran at the Southampton defence, linking up well with Phil Foden. This link-up led to a chance for Raheem Sterling, as Foden crossed the ball across the box, but Sterling hit the ball straight at Fraser Forster. There was not much else from a City perspective.
The current champions had a much better second half, it was not perfect but it should have been enough to leave Southampton with 3 points. Kevin De Bruyne had an excellent second half, and it was another moment of brilliance that led to the equaliser. The Belgian crossed the ball in from a free-kick from the right-hand side and it was met by an unmarked Aymeric Laporte at the back post.
After the equaliser, there was a period of sustained pressure from the away side, but unfortunately, nothing came of the pressure. Kevin De Bruyne hit the post from 20 yards out, and Gabriel Jesus had a header at the back post saved by Fraser Forster after an excellent ball in from Joao Cancelo.
VAR was once again involved as Kevin De Bruyne was fouled whilst running into the box. It was a tight call, so it could be understood why VAR did not overturn the referee's decision not to award the penalty. The other VAR decision was a shocker. Stuart Armstrong was late and high on Aymeric Laporte with his studs up, a clear red card and a terrible decision from VAR.
Due to these stoppages, the game began to fizzle out and City could not find a winner.
Man of the Match - Aymeric Laporte
Aymeric Laporte has had a brilliant season, and today was another example of why he is so important to this City team. The Spanish central defender is a threat from all set-pieces and once again scored away from home to prevent 3 points from being dropped. Laporte was excellent defensively too, Southampton looked dangerous on the break and he was there to thwart any threat.
A little mention to Mohammed Salisu who was Man of the Match for the overall game. He was phenomenal, 14 clearances is just a snapshot of how good he was. Each time City looked dangerous, Salisu was there.
Ederson - 6: Ederson had an indifferent game today, there was nothing he could have done for the first goal and VAR saved his blushes twice, especially for what would have been a penalty on Broja. The Brazilian made an excellent save from a Jan Bednarek header at the near post.
Walker - 7: Typical Walker performance. Completely locked down the right side of the pitch, neither Nathan Redmond nor Mohamed Elyounoussi caused Walker any problems.
Dias - 7: Overall solid performance. There was nothing he could have done for the first goal, was a little sloppy in possession towards the end of the game.
Laporte (MOTM)- 9: After an excellent performance against Chelsea, he put in another excellent game which included scoring the equaliser. A lovely souvenir for his efforts too...
Cancelo - 7: Was fairly ineffective in the first half, but improved with the rest of the team in the second half. The left-back played his usual balls down the line for Grealish and Foden, whilst remaining solid defensively.
Rodri - 6: Not a bad performance, but he was sloppier in possession than he usually is.
Bernardo - 6: Quiet performance from Bernardo Silva this evening. Bernardo ran and gave the game his usual energy, but he offered little going forward.
Kevin De Bruyne - 8: Had a much better second half than the first. He was part of the reason why the league leaders picked up the tempo and assisted the equaliser.
Grealish - 8: Great performance off and on the ball. Created a few chances, but importantly he came and received the ball and then ran at the defence which caused problems for Southampton's defence.
Foden - 6: It was a quiet performance from the 21-year old. He linked up well with Jack Grealish and Joao Cancelo at times but did not offer too much else.
Sterling - 4: This performance was the polar opposite of the performance he put it against Chelsea. He did not run at the Southampton defence, missed an easy chance and got hooked for Gabriel Jesus at 60 minutes.
City now have over two weeks to rest and be prepared to try and kickstart another winning run.
Written by: @benking200012
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