FA Premier League
Saturday 5 April 2014, 12.45 KO
City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Kolarov, Fernandinho (Garcia 45), Toure, Nasri, Silva (Jovetic 77), Navas, Dzeko (Negredo 65)
Unused: Pantilimon, Lescott, Richards, Milner
Goals: Toure (pen 3), Nasri (45+1), Dzeko (45+4), Jovetic (81)
Booked: Fernandinho, Garcia, Toure
Referee: Chris Foy
Man of the Match: David Silva
City had to ride their luck at times against a good Southampton side, but the home team did enough to emerge victors ahead of a tough fixture with Liverpool in the title run-in. The Saints will rue the first half stoppage time, where most of the damage was done, when they had a firm grip on the match before it.
It started well for City – who were gifted the chance to open the scoring from the spot. Dzeko went down very easily under the challenge of Fonte. The forward jinked past the defender, whose trailing leg brushed against the Bosnian’s stomach and, when the striker hit the deck, the referee pointed to the spot. Toure did the rest, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way.
From there, though, City just did not impose themselves on the match. Nasri had an effort from the edge of the box that dropped just wide, but it was the visitors who had the better of the ball – even though they failed to work Hart. Lambert couldn’t connect to a corner when he rose highest in the box, before the England hopeful curled a free kick wide of Hart’s post.
Rodriguez will fear for his England place following an incident mid-way through the first half, too. The striker tried to bring the ball down just inside the City half and, under no pressure, went down holding his knee – leaving the action early, on a stretcher, to a standing ovation.
Dzeko came close to doubling City’s lead with a free header at the back post, but he nodded Nasri’s free kick onto the bar and over. It could have been a costly miss – as Zabaleta brought down Cork inside the home side’s box moments later and Lamber scored the resulting penalty. Hart guessed correctly, but there was too much power on the spot kick and it hit the back of the net.
As the board went up for stoppage time, though, a below-par City put themselves into an almost unassailable position. First, a stroke of good luck: Silva was clearly offside from Dzeko’s flick, but the linesman didn’t raise his flag. The Spaniard weaved his way through and squared for Nasri to slot into the net.
Then, as the fans were readying themselves for a 2-1 lead going into the second half, Dzeko added the Blues’ third. A good spell of possession ended with Kolarov picking up the ball on the left and firing in a good cross for the Bosnian. Gazzaninga came for it, but missed, and Dzeko redirected it over the line, via the back post.
The second half, though, was a completely different story. The introduction of Garcia allowed City to see more possession and they began to look good for their lead – Silva was frustrated the referee didn’t play advantage when he pulled back with one man between him and the goal, before Kolarov had a shot deflected behind for a corner.
On the hour mark, Dzeko should have netted his second. He was played through by Silva and was one-on-one with the goalkeeper. From a tight angle, he forced Gazzaniga into a good save and, despite being on his stronger foot, he couldn’t volley the rebound in – it actually went out for a throw-in.
Quite how Negredo didn’t score is a question City fans will be asking too – first, he was played through by Navas, but chose to check back inside his defender instead of taking on the shot and lost possession, before second, he hit the goalkeeper on a one-on-one on his left foot.
However, the missed chances didn’t matter as, with just under ten minutes to play, the Blues added their fourth: A low cross from the right flank was inches away from Negredo, but the Spaniard couldn’t touch it towards goal. Gazzaniga came, but missed it, and Jovetic was arriving in time to touch it into the goal at the back post.
It was a confident second half from City, though the scoreline was very harsh on the Saints. City in a good vein of form ahead of that huge game at Anfield up next.