Manchester City 4 Southampton 1

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

Dzeko competes with Lallana for possession.

Dzeko competes with Lallana for possession.

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.

Dzeko adds City's third goal.

Dzeko adds City’s third goal.

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.

Southampton 1 Manchester City 1

FA Premier League
Saturday 7 December 2013, 15.00 KO

City: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Kolarov, Fernandinho, Toure (Dzeko 79), Milner (Garcia 62), Nasri, Aguero, Negredo (Navas 62)
Unused: Hart, Lescott, Clichy, Richards
Goals: Aguero (10)
Booked: Aguero

Referee: Anthony Taylor
Man of the Match: Fernandinho

Zabaleta battles for the ball.

Zabaleta battles for the ball.

Having added their second away win of the season in mid-week, the Blues were looking to build on their recent run of good form and continue that on the south coast. And it was the perfect start for the visitors, who had had a couple of sniffs at goal but nothing concrete, when Aguero put them ahead: A cross from Kolarov was missed by everybody until the Argentine was able to rifle it into the net.

But the visitors just didn’t build on their lead and allowed the hosts back into the match. Lovren rose highest at a corner to nod towards goal, but it was just wide of Pantilimon’s post, before Cork had a pop from range and it needed both hands from the Romanian goalkeeper to keep it out.

However, despite the pressure from the Saints, it should have been City who added the next goal. Zabaleta got to the by-line and pulled it back for the in-form Aguero, but the Argentine skied it – where on Wednesday evening, he netted.

As half time approached, Southampton were well on the front foot and should have levelled. First Chambers rose to head a Shaw cross from the left, but he couldn’t direct his effort on target, before Pantilimon had to be alert to stop from Ward-Prowse from range.

Two minutes before the break, the inevitable happened and the hosts equalised. Osvaldo turned inside Kompany and Zabaleta to set up a shooting opportunity, before bending the ball over and around Pantilimon from the left corner of the penalty area. It looped past the goalkeeper and in off the bar.

Having faded in the first half, the visitors began the second period the better. First Aguero could have given the Blues the lead for the second time, as the ball broke to him to volley. It was a great save from Gazzaniga. Toure then came close to giving the visitors the advantage, but his effort was just wide – with the goalkeeper beaten.

Minutes later, though, Southampton were denied by another good save from Pantilimon. Rodriguez skipped through on goal, having eased past Kompany and Zabaleta, but the Romanian was out at his feet quickly to block. Osvaldo hit the rebound, but he ended up hoofing it over the bar.

It was soon all Southampton again – Osvaldo hit an effort wide that had Pantilimon worried, before Kompany pulled a clearance out of nowhere, getting his toe on the end of a Ward-Prowse cross from a free kick that looked destined to cause City problems.

With full time and the draw looming, both sides seemed to want to throw it away: First, Kompany was lucky to have been left off twisting and turning in his own box, but won a foul as he was dispossessed. Gazzaniga was then nowhere near a ball through as he came off his line, but Dzeko couldn’t capitalise.

It finished all square, though, in truth, City were lucky.

Southampton 3 Manchester City 1

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)

Southampton1The 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.

Manchester City 3 Southampton 2

FA Premier League
Sunday 19 August 2012, 16.00 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Lescott, Clichy, Rodwell, Y Toure, Silva (Balotelli 72), Nasri, Aguero (Dzeko 14), Tevez (Kolarov 87)
Unused: Pantilimon, Savic, de Jong, Milner
Goals: Tevez (41), Dzeko (72), Nasri (80)
Booked: Nasri

Referee: Howard Webb
Man of the Match: Samir Nasri

City’s defence of their title began on the ground where the league was won, as another newly promoted side visited The Etihad. Southampton, with nothing to lose, started on the backfoot, as the hosts controlled the early possession. The chances, though, were slow in coming and soon it was going to be more difficult for the blues: Sergio Aguero was left clutching his knee following a tangle with Clyne. He couldn’t carry on and was stretchered down the tunnel.

A neat turn in the box from Tevez, though, quickly gave the home side the perfect chance to get in front. He was tripped and the referee pointed to the spot. David Silva put the ball down, but his penalty kick was awful; it dribbled straight back to the goalkeeper, who had gone the right way and was able to block the shot.

The chances remained few and far between. Tevez poked an effort straight at Davis when he was surrounded by visiting shirts on the edge of the box, before Zabaleta was harshly penalised for handball, though the free-kick from Southampton came to nothing.

With five minutes to play until half time, the home side pulled themselves in front. Tevez was just onside from a ball over the top and he smashed his effort on a one-on-one first time, on the half-volley, at Davis’s near post. It beat the goalkeeper and City were in front with four minutes of the half to play.

The blues stepped it up a gear early in the second half. Dzeko should have done better when he connected to Nasri’s cross, but his header flashed wide of the mark. Clichy found himself as the furthest man forward shortly after and, as he was picked out by Yaya Toure, he could only guide his shot over the bar. Silva then missed another good opportunity as the ball broke to him; his volley clipped the bar and dropped into the North Stand.

Somewhat against the run of play, Lambert pulled the visitors level. Southampton capitalised on some poor defending from the home side – who just couldn’t get the ball away – and, from just inside the box, the Saints’ striker guided the shot into the bottom corner, leaving Joe Hart with no chance.

And, on 68 minutes, it got worse. Debutant Jack Rodwell didn’t get enough weight on his pass to Silva following a cleared corner and Southampton intercepted. They broke quickly and, after exchanging passes with Lallana, Davis curled the ball into the bottom corner. From cruising at 1-0, City were now 1-2 behind.

Four minutes later, though, City were on terms. A corner was cleared to Kompany on the edge of the box and the Belgian smashed a shot at goal. It was blocked by Yaya Toure and he tried to get a shot of his own in, but the ball squirmed out to Dzeko. With the goalkeeper stranded, he wasn’t going to miss and he got the home side on terms.

A minute later, City should have been back in front. A decisive breakaway saw Yaya Toure burst forward with possession, before slipping the ball on to Nasri. He played a low ball into the box, just ahead of Dzeko, but it looked perfect for Balotelli. The Italian, though, hit the side netting.

With just under ten minutes to play, though, City were back in the lead. A poor header out of defence fell kindly for Nasri inside the box. The man of the match needed no second invitation and he smashed the ball into the top corner of the net.

It was a nervous final few minutes for City, who were under more pressure than in most games last season. It will take a much better performance next weekend if the blues are to get something from their trip to Anfield.