Manchester City V. Southampton

Ben Fitzpatrick, is a member of the YCL’s Birmingham branch

Against the backdrop of the second leg of the Champions League Round of 16, Manchester City had Premier League duties to attend to with the side looking to bounce back from their shock derby defeat. Their opponents would be that of a Southampton side who were hoping to be on the upwards trend after collecting their first three points in 10 league matches. They would have a tough challenge ahead of them, though, as City were eager to regain their lead at the top of the table.

City made three changes to their starting 11 which also resulted in a change of shape. Joao Cancelo made way for Kyle Walker at the back while midfielder Rodrigo was sidelined in favour of Bernardo Silva as they lined up as a 4-3-3. Phil Foden would also replace Gabriel Jesus to complete the front three for the home side. Southampton named a whopping seven changes from their victory over Sheffield United which included the return of number one goalkeeper Alex McCarthy and Che Adams replacing the injured Danny Ings up top.

The game would deliver nothing short of a slugfest with seven goals being scored throughout the duration of the ninety minutes. Manchester City would strike first through Kevin De Bruyne who converted from close range at the 15-minute mark. Southampton would take just ten minutes, though, to pull level with city after referee Jonathan Moss awarded a penalty for a pull on Jannik Vestergard. Captain James Ward-Prowse would score from the spot and the game was on.

But City would go and grab themselves two more goals before half time in an effort to put the game out of reach of the visitors. Riyad Mahrez pounced on a loose ball by Che Adams and curled a picture-perfect shot past the returning Alex McCarthy to give City the lead. Illkay Gundogan would then strap on his shooting boots and fire home his 12th goal of the league campaign when he reacted the quickest off of a Mahrez effort hitting the post in first half stoppage time.

The league leaders wouldn’t let their foot off of the gas, scoring twice within the space of five minutes to give them the three points. Phil Foden would be instrumental in both goals, first setting up Mahrez for his second goal of the evening before later doing it again for De Bruyne’s second goal of the evening. Che Adams would score in the space between the two Manchester City goals with a shot that flew into the bottom right-hand corner, but the visitors just didn’t have enough in the tank to compete with the league leaders and succumbed to another defeat.

Ralph Hasenhüttl, who spoke after the game, praised the bravery in his side and took plenty of encouragement in the display he saw. The manager did express frustrations about the way his side dealt with the second half but was quoted as saying he ‘can live with this game’ given the quality of the opposition.

Southampton are at home this weekend, hosting a Brighton side that will be desperate for a win given their current precarious position in the league table. As for the hosts, they require now just six Premier League wins to make it a mathematical certainty that they will be 20/21 Premier League champions. They visit Fulham on Saturday as they begin an important run of fixtures that will definitely be worth keeping a close eye on.

Ben Fitzpatrick

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