Manchester City v Southampton
The City of Manchester Stadium - Sunday, 23rd October 2016
> Redmond snaps up a gift from Stones and scores
> City equalise through Iheanacho
> A mighty performance from Romeu
IBO Reporter : channonite
Make no mistake, this was a point won. Although Saints scored first, it was down to a horrendous defensive error at the heart of the Manchester City defence. The second half was marked by Man City stepping up several gears and Saints had to defend for long periods, while still managing to break out in numbers, looking to threaten Bravo in the Man City goal.
It was also the first time that I had watched a Saints game on Sky in my house, in fact it was the first time that I had watched Sky Sports since subscribing two months ago. An expensive game then!
The Saints team was as expected after the rigours of the Inter Milan game mid-week, showing six changes. Once again Fraser Forster was the last line of defence, with Centre Backs, José Fonte and Virgil van Dijk in front of him. The Full Backs (in the absense of any other options) were Cuco Martina on the right and once again, Sam McQueen on the right. The midfield trio were Jordy Clasie, Oriol Romeu and Steven Davis, with Dusan Tadić, Charlie Austin and Nathan Redmond up front.
Manchester City kicked off playing straight back and across their back three, looking for all the world as if it was some sort of training game. They soon started to look as if they meant business and it very quickly became clear that they were going to target McQueen. Fortunately Puel had clearly anticipated this and Steven Davis acted as combined fireman/nursemaid for Sam as the youngster's steep learning curve gathered pace.
In spite of the pressure they were under Saints were managing to move forward in numbers on occasion. In fact, that was one of the most impressive things about this late 2016 version of Saints, the fact that they both attacked and defended in numbers. The transition from defence to attack found Saints three on three and sometimes four on three. And yet, this was where it tended to fall down, time and again in and around the penalty area.
Nathan Redmond said after the game that he had been waiting for the Manchester City defence to make an error and just before the half hour that is exactly what they did. Although Stones made the dreadfully underhit pass that Redmond pounced on, it was rooted in the misunderstanding between the light blue back three of Stones, Kompany and Kolorov. Kompany's indecision led to Stones being left with no-one to pass to, so attempted to pass back to Bravo in the goal. As quick as lightening, Redmond pounced on the ball and rounded Bravo, shooting from an angle into an empty net.
0-1 and it was clear that the City fans were stunned. To be honest, so was I.
Key to Saints success in dealing with the array of talent in the Man City ranks were the man mountain that is Virgil van Dijk, deceptively quick for such a big man, and central to everything, Oriol Romeu who seems to grow in stature with every match.
We arrived at half time with the score still at 0-1 and City left the field to the sound of booing from some sections of the crowd. Another thing was that it was half-time and McQueen hadn't cracked, indeed with Davis' support he had visibly grown in confidence. He was going to need all of that in the second half.
At the start of the second half, City replaced De Bruyne with Saints bogeyman Iheanacho. As expected they laid into Saints, but with superb teamwork, determination they held out ...... for a while. When the red and white lines were eventually breached, it was with some superb play from the expensive City forwards. A great pass out wide and left found Sané who played back across goal, just in time to reach a stretching Iheanacho and it was 1-1.
Was this going to open the floodgates? The crowd were certainly roused by the goal, but Saints were superb under the pressure. McQueen was learning fast how to defend against top class opposition. He seemed to grow in confidence as the game went on. What a week he has had. Burnley last Sunday, Internazionale in the San Siro on Thursday and Manchester City in the City of Manchester stadium the following Sunday.
Just after the hour mark, Puel decided to change things, preparing to make a double substitution of Clasie for Højbjerg and Tadić for Boufal. Just as this was happening, van Dijk came off worst in a clash of heads and for a few moments ot looked as if he would have to come off. Puel called a halt to the Tadić /Boufal sub, while they waited to see how van Dijk was. After a couple of minutes it became clear that van Dijk was OK to continue and boufal was cleared to come on.
Højbjerg made an immediate difference, as did Boufal a couple of minutes later. Suddenly Saints had a creative outlet to relieve the pressure. Saints didn't now just defend and there was still a chance for Charlie Austin to shoot straight at Bravo after a great piece of work from Boufal.
I am so looking forward to seeing the French Morroccan get back to full fitness. As Dave Merrington said after the cameo appearance in the Inter Milan game, he looks a right box of tricks. His jinks and pass to release Charlie Austin was a joy to watch. Maybe we will see him more against Sunderland mid-week.
Anyway, back to the game. Romeu was immense, all over the place, tackling and probing trying to push the team forward. van Dijk was also instrumental in frustrating the Manchester City players attempts.
One person that I haven't mentioned at all is the referee. Mark Clattenburg, officous as always and erratic as always. Generally speaking this was one of his better games, but he still couldn't resist theatrically flourishing yellow cards to players that had transgressed. Forster got a yellow for time wasting at the end of the game, only to see the board being held up to inform everyone that there would be five minutes added time.
This was definately buttock clenching time, but Saints did hold out for a very hard fought point. Superb end to a challenging week. My Man of the Match was never in doubt, Oriol Romeu. He was simply brilliant. He did make mistakes, but simply shrugged them off and continued.
So, Saints are still in 8th place in the Premier League, just a solitary point behind Manchester United. Midweek brings the next round of the EFL Cup against Sunderland at St.Mary's, while it is back to Premier League business on Sunday with the visit of Chelsea. Looking forward to that then.
4 Kompany - Booked 57' (Jesús Navas 78')
11 Kolarov - Booked 50'
19 Sané (Nolito 90')
17 De Bruyne (Iheanacho 45')
10 Agüero - Booked 59'
15 Jesús Navas
1 Forster - Booked 90'
17 van Dijk
4 Clasie - Booked 44' (Højbjerg 67')
14 Romeu - Booked 52'
11 Tadić (Boufal 70')
10 Austin (Ward-Prowse 83')
Manchester City 1
Referee : Mark Clattenburg
Attendance : 53,731
Manchester City 65%
Manchester City 14
Shots on Target
Manchester City 3
Manchester City 10
Manchester City 11