FA Premier League
Saturday 9 February 2013, 17.30 KO
City: Hart, Zabaleta, Garcia, Lescott (Kolarov 66), Clichy, Y Toure (c), Barry, Nasri (Milner 55), Silva (Maicon 73), Aguero, Dzeko
Unused: Pantilimon, K Toure, Rodwell, Sinclair
Goals: Dzeko (39)
Booked: Clichy, Y Toure
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Man of the Match: (none)
The hosts began the match much the brighter team with City struggling to get going. The opening goal came from their first shot of the afternoon, as Puncheon stole the ball from Barry on the left side of the pitch. He rolled it in to Rodriguez for a one-on-one with Hart. Yaya Toure got back to tackle the Saints man, and Hart saved, but it left an open goal for Puncheon, who couldn’t miss. The blues were behind after just seven minutes.
City tried to respond quickly. Aguero shot from deep, but it was easy for Boruc to hold, before Nasri tried to slip the Argentine through but his pass was blocked. Aguero tried to do it himself as he won possession in the Southampton half and broke into the box, but his low cross was ahead of everybody and was cleared.
With 20 minutes played it went from bad to worse and it was a mistake by Joe Hart that cost the visitors a goal. A shot straight at the England goalkeeper was spilt through his own legs and Davies slid in to tap the ball into the net. Two goals down and both were easily preventable. City were flagging badly.
On the half hour, it should have been three for the hosts, as the visitors couldn’t get the ball out of their own area. Zabaleta and Garcia both tried to clear, but it bounced to Rodriguez and his curling effort was bent around the back post with Hart scrambling. At the other end, Zabaleta’s left foot cross drifted behind as he looked for the head of Dzeko.
A deflected shot from Clyne gave the hosts a corner, but it proved to be a lifeline for City. The cross was cleared by Dzeko and found Silva, who returned the ball to the Bosnian with the chance to break. He held up possession to give it back to Silva, who found Zabaleta and put him through in the box. The Argentine squared back for Dzeko, who bundled it over the line.
On the stroke of half time, City came close to pulling level as Nasri delivered a low ball into the box and Silva connected with it, but the Spaniard couldn’t direct it away from Boruc with the shot. Immediately, Southampton wanted a penalty for a challenge by Yaya Toure, but the referee pointed for a corner when, on another day, he might well have pointed to the spot. City were lucky to be going in only a goal behind.
Two minutes into the second half and a ball over the top nearly undid the visitors again. Lambert broke past Lescott, who got back to slow the forward down. It was squared for Puncheon, but he skied the effort over the bar. Thirty seconds later, though, it was an absolute disaster for the visitors: Lambert squared the ball and Barry, trying to slide it back to Hart, scored an own goal.
City were in complete disarray and Southampton were bossing the game: Lambert was played onside by three of the back four, all of whom stopped and appealed. The forward’s cross was too far behind the support though, before a return ball to the back post was just too far ahead of Lambert for him to connect. The blues then had to survive a goalmouth scramble: How it wasn’t four was baffling.
With 15 minutes to play, City had switched to a back three with Maicon and Kolarov providing the width. It had allowed the visitors to get more possession and it almost paid off, as Kolarov crossed low and Yaya Toure was almost able to stab home, but Boruc pounced on the loose ball before the Ivorian could get there.
The game petered to a close with City controlling possession, but with nothing for Boruc to do. City were abysmal: It was their worst showing of Mancini’s time at the club and what a time to have it.