Southampton v Manchester City
Sunday, 14th May 2018
IBO Reporter : channonite
And so we came down to the last game of the season, the one I looked at first, when the fixture list first came out and hoped we wouldn't need anything from that match. And that was obviously before they became runaway Premier League leaders. At least the tensions were largely relieved by the win at Swansea on Tuesday, which meant it was only a succession of unusual results, which would mean Saints were relegated, instead of Swansea. To add a bit of complication to the mix, City were hardly likely to take it easy, as if they won, they would have a record breaking 100 points. To be more accurate, they had already broken the record with their current 97 points, so it would just be a never before achieved three figure total. A psychological thing then.
Rather strangely, I went to the match with two ManU fans, who obviously had no interest at all in seeing Manchester City win. Their function was to look after me, in case of blood pressure issues. As it turned out, apart from a brief few minutes, when we heard that Swansea had scored against Stoke, it was a remarkably stress free game. Until Saints decided in the last few minutes that they could actually win the match. The rest had almost an air of inevitability about it, as in the dying seconds the Saints defence were outflanked by an exquisite route one pass from De Bruyne and the son of God was on to it in a flash. Back of the net, end of match. Bugger.
Hughes team selection had no last minute surprises, with the injured Bednarek replaced by the returning Yoshida.
I don't think anyone really expected anything but desperate defending from the home team, but the way in which City set about the game was pretty awe-inspiring. Yet for all that, McCarthy didn't have an awful lot to do. A blow by blow account of the game would be pretty tedious, as it involved one near squeak after another and yet Saints did fashion the odd threat on the City goal, mostly squandered by Austin. He seems to have lost his touch in recent games.
The most notable thing to happen in the early stages was the news that filtered through the crowd about Swansea scoring within the first 15 minutes to take the lead. It couldn't happen could it? The nervousness remained, until on the half hour came the news that Stoke had equalised. Then just before the end of the half, the crowd in the Northam started chanting "We are staying up, we are staying up". The reason for this turned out to be the news that Peter Crouch (bless him) had scored to put Stoke into the lead. From that moment on you sensed the crowd relax an get more into the game.
Half-time arrived with the score still 0-0, in spite of City's domination in possession. The home fans were in good spirits and the talk turned to a discussion about whether it would actually be possible to get a point from this match.
The second half kicked off and there were no changes on either side. City resumed their onslaught on the Saints goal, without ever looking that troubling to McCarthy, although there were a couple of close shaves. It wasn't until Guardiola replaced Delph with Jesus, that the dynamics of the game changed. Almost instantly Saints had trouble even getting near the ball and you could feel things tipping City's way.
Within five minutes Hughes reacted and replaced the ineffective Redmond with Ward-Prowse and Austin with Shane Long. Good call, as that swung things back the other way and you could sense the players belief that they could actually win the game, as they became more adventurous and the City goal started to come under threat, with their defenders making some uncharacteristic mistakes. Notable was when Bravo came out of his goal and didn't collect the ball, but Saints couldn't quite capitalise, however it showed that Manchester City were not invincible.
With about ten minutes left, Guardiola took off Gündogan and Bernardo Silva, sending on Foden and Diaz for their fifth games of the season, which meant that they would qualify for a Premier League Champions medal. A nice touch.
What wasn't a nice touch was what came next. As Saints pressed for the winner they were leaving more and more room at the back. Eventually, deep into injury time, the inevitable happened. The superb De Bruyne spotted the defence out of position and lofted a pass right over the heads of the remaining defenders and Jesus was onto it in a flash. McCarthy made an attempt to deny him, but the end result was the ball in the back of the net. This was the signal for absolute pandemonium amongst the City contingent, both on and off the pitch. They calmed down enough for the game to kick off again, only for the referee to blow for full time. There were contrasting emotions then, relief for Saints and their fans, that they would be back for more Premier League football next season and unconfined joy amongst the City camp, having broken the 100 point barrier.
There was the usual end of season parade of the Saints players and their families after the game and I couldn't help wondering how many players we were seeing for the last time, particularly as Maya Yoshida and his daughter passed in front of me.
Not a good season, but everything turned out alright in the end. Now the club has to learn from this very narrow escape. Question is, will they?
2 Cédric - Booked 90'
21 Bertrand (McQueen 81')
23 Højbjerg - Booked 90'
22 Redmond (Ward-Prowse 64' - Booked 71')
10 Austin (Long 64')
18 Delph (Jesus 59' - Booked 90')
17 De Bruyne
8 Gündogan (Foden 82')
20 Bernardo Silva (Diaz 78')
Sunday 13th May 2018
Man City 1
- Jesus 90'+4
Referee : Andre Marriner
Attendance : 31,882
- Southampton 30%
- Manchester City 70%
- Southampton 8
- Manchester City 13
Shots on Target
- Southampton 3
- Manchester City 2
- Southampton 1
- Manchester City 12
- Southampton 8
- Manchester City 10