Saints v Citizens Report
Sat 9th Feb 5.30pm
Manchester City travelled south to take on a relegation haunted Southampton team that although they had been playing well, had picked up just two points in their last three matches.
Saints were still without Jose Fonte, Guly do Prado and Gaston Ramirez, and for this game Luke Shaw was also out through injury. That allied with the fire power City possess such as Aguero, Dzeko, Silva and Yaya Toure made the task look ever more difficult.
City, sitting nine points behind Man Utd, knew that anything less than a win could end any hopes that they were clinging to of retaining the title of English champions.
The game began with Saints pushing up and harrying City at every opportunity. They gave no time to the City stars and it was when Jason Puncheon stole the ball from Barry that Saints domination earned a goal.
Barry lost the ball in midfield to Puncheon who ran forward before delivering an exquisite through ball for Jay Rodriguez. Rodriguez raced into the area and scuffed a shot goalwards which rebounded to the onrushing Puncheon and he calmly slotted the ball home.
1-0 to Saints and we were in dreamland. Being Saints though we know that we always let teams back in and scoring so early meant that there was still 83 minutes minimum still to play and plenty of time for City to begin playing.
City were struggling to deal with Saint's attacking intent in an opening 15 minutes and all they had to show for their efforts was a Sergio Aguero effort which Artur Boruc claimed relatively easily.
As time passed Saints were still harrying City but slowly the Citizens were getting more involved with the play. Saints still did the majority of the attacking as they were mainly keeping City penned in their own half.
Rodriguez came close as Saints kept up the pressure. Then Saints won the ball, and Rickie Lambert playing down the right played a neat one-two with Puncheon, before cutting inside and unleashing a shot.
The shot was driven into Joe Hart's midriff and the keeper unconvincingly allowed the ball to squirm through him and Steve Davis steamed in and toe poked the ball home.
2-0 and Saints were now beginning to wonder whether this was really happening. After all nobody could make the best defence in the league look this bad, surely.
An uncomfortable couple of moments followed for the hosts when skipper Lambert was booked for a tug on Joleon Lescott. Hooiveld was then penalised harshly for tripping Edin Dzeko on the edge of the Saints area. Fortunately, the resulting set piece from Aguero was struck straight into the defensive wall of red shirts and Saints were able to clear to safety.
The game became more even but still the Saints harried and pressed. City saw a well directed Zabaleta cross just miss Aguero before Rodriguez finished a good Saints attack by driving the ball just wide as we searched for a third.
With 6 minutes to go Saints won a corner. Edin Dzeko managed to head clear and City broke quickly with a classic counter-attack, and the move was finished by the Bosnian too after he slid in to scoop home Pablo Zabaleta's cross.
2-1 and suddenly the game was wide open. Saints fans nervously looked around but soon cheered the team forward as they tried to maintain their high pressure all attacking game.
As we entered extra time we should have been given a penalty.Yaya Toure was taken on by Jay Rodriguez and beaten but as the striker ran towards goal he was illegally shoved of the ball by Toure. Unbelievably the referee awarded Saints a corner though the defender had got nowhere near to the ball.
Ht 2-1 and all to play for.
No changes were made during the break but three minutes into the half lady luck showed that she was smiling kindly on the Saints after Puncheon hammered over moments into the second half. The little winger then saw a Lambert pullback passed back by Gareth Barry and into his own goal.
3-1 and Saints had their two goal cushion again. Roberto Mancini seemed apoplectic as he watched. Unrelenting attacking play from Saints had City chasing shadows in defence, and they were struggling to come to grips with the pressure being exerted on them.
Boruc was called into action moments later to deny Sergio Aguero. The striker had kept himself onside and receiving the ball out on the left he flash a strike across goal which Boruc springing to his left did well to push away.
55 minutes and James Milner came on in the place of Samir Nasri. The change showed immediate effect as Milner flashed an effort just wide thus doing more with his first kick than Nasri had done in nearly an hour.
The action was still predominantly dictated by Saints but City were making sporadic breaks as they attempted to get back into the game. Adam Lallana then came on for Jason Puncheon who left to a warm round of applause.
Saints continued to look slick and Schneiderlin came close after great work from Lambert and Cork set him up. With Saints still pushing forward Mancini took off Lescott and sent on Aleksander Kolarov on 67 minutes. Yaya Toure was booked for a foul on Lallana.
2 minutes later Saints manager Mauricio Pochettino was forced into a second change when limping Daniel Fox was substituted with Frazer Richardson. Richardson took Nathaniel Clyne's place at the back with Clyne moving to left back.
Jack Cork then had a shot fly just wide of the post, before City then made their final effort to change things by bringing on Sisenando Maicon for David Silva. Seconds later Kolarov saw Boruc save his shot well.
With 10 minutes left Saints made their final change with Steve Davis being replaced by Saints youngster James Ward-Prowse. The changes made little or no difference as Saints continued to search for a fourth goal to seal the victory.
Occasional breaks from City were met with stiff resistance and a save from Boruc when needed. As time began to run out City tried ever harder to find an answer but to no avail. Ward-Prowse was involved in a smart Saints move and on 90 minutes we saw the board raised showing we still had 5 more minutes to play.
City sent a couple of crosses in which were cleared and with the fans whistling frantically for time the referee finally blew to end the game. A great roar went round the ground and all stood to cheer their heroes from the field of play.
A great day for Saints with us finally getting our just deserts for our all attacking high pressure game. Even better was the fact that three teams below us all lost helping us open up a 6 point gap to the drop zone.
Hard to split them, but I give Cork the edge and make him man of the match.
It is impossible to describe what MP did today. His game plan worked a treat and we totally destroyed the current champions of England.
He seemed totally bereft of ideas and simply found it impossible to stem the tide of Saints pressure.