IBO Reporter : channonite
|So, I sat down and took a deep breath. I remember thinking just before the kick-off that this isn't going to be pretty and then off we went. Hang on a minute, this wasn't in the script, Saints are controlling the game, but it doesn't last long, perhaps fourteen minutes, before City step up and a long pass from deep finds Gündogen beyond Bertrand. He plays a short pass to Foden, whose shot is parried by McCarthy. De Bruyne was the first to react, but his shot hits the crossbar and bounces down into the net. 1-0.
Saints soon got back to pressing and were moving the ball quickly up the pitch. Redmond on one foraging run, surrounded by four defenders got off a shot, which was on target, but Ederson managed to push behind for a corner. Ward-Prowse took the corner and sent a curling kick right onto Vestergaard's head. The big man directed a thumping header goalwards, which Ederson succeeded in pushing straight back towards the Dane. As he reacted to that he was pulled to the ground by a defender. Jon Moss was in no doubt and pointed straight to the spot. Penalty! Ward-Prowse stepped up and taking a measured approached sent his kick straight down the middle, with Emerson diving to his right. 1-1. And only 25 minutes gone.
You couldn't take your eyes off this game, it was all action and Saints were now giving as good as they got.
Next came the games controversial moment. City had maintained possession, all the time working closer to Saints goal. The ball was played through for Mahrez, but Salisu got to it first and under pressure, played it back to McCarthy, who was some way off his line. At the crucial moment he slipped and the rapidly advancing Foden raced the goalkeeper for the ball deep into the penalty area. A clearly desperate McCarthy realised he was going to lose this race and made an ill judged tackle that was nowhere near connecting with anything, other than Foden's leg. The young City player went down sliding on his knees, but regained his footing and regained possession, but the move eventually came to nothing. How that was not a penalty is a complete mystery to me. Maybe Jon Moss did not have clear view, but what about VAR I hear you ask? Quite. Saints were very, very lucky there.
Saints were the next to get a chance, when Bednarek, Redmond and Adams played some quick passing, ending with the Saints No.10 passing back to Ward-Prowse who, while still a long way out, looked up and let fly with a shot that almost caught Ederson by surprise, the goalkeeper just managing to push the shot over the bar.
This seemed too good to last, Saints were playing well, but we have a habit of now and again shooting ourselves in the foot and that is exactly what happened next. With just five minutes to go to half time, Saints were in possession on the right wing in their own half and several players were involved in keeping the ball, until it got to Adams. He then decided to play a pass across field in the general direction of Bertrand. It was always ambitious, if not downright foolhardy. Mahrez simply had to step forward to intercept and then it was always only going to be one outcome, as he curled a shot into the bottom far corner of McCarthy's goal. 2-1.
This wasn't the end of it either, deep into stoppage time at the end of the first half, Saints got themselves into all sorts of bother and Mahrez shot across goal, but his shot hit the post and bounced out. With several defenders around, it was Gündogan who reacted first, hammering the ball into the back of the net. 3-1. Almost in the blink of an eye, City had probably put the game beyond reach.
So, it was half time and we were looking at 3-1, when just over five minutes before it was level pegging. Yet the scoreline didn't really reflect how well Saints had played.
When the teams came out for the second half, Nathan Tella had replaced Djenepo, which wasn't much of a surprise, as the Malian had been struggling since about the 30 minute mark, after stretching for a ball. From that moment on he was obviously in some discomfort, but had tried to run it off. Obviously without any luck.
Within ten minutes of the restart Saints went further behind, when City played around the edge of the area and although there were plenty of players in red shirts there, nobody seemed capable of stopping Mahrez curling a shot along the ground, beyond the reach of McCarthy, into the corner of the net. 4-1 and that was another depressingly simple goal.
However, completely in keeping with the breakneck nature of the game, Saints took the ball up the other end of the pitch and scored again! Cue the cameras showing Guardiola shaking his head on the sidelines. 4-2!
To be fair, it was a well worked goal, as several players played around a surprisingly static City defence. Firstly, a long ball forward by Vestergaard caused panic in the City defence and eventually Redmond came out with the ball, working it wide on the right. He executed a wonderful back heel pass, which completely wrong footed several defenders. Armstrong picked it up and moved it on to Adams, who calmly slotted it home for his second goal in as many games.
Would things calm down fo a bit now? The answer was no! Once again Saints defence was caught out, as Kevin De Bruyne escaped the attention of at least four red shirts and tucked away his second goal and City's fifth. 5-2 and we had seen three goals in four crazy minutes!
Shortly after this Ralph replaced Jack Stephens with Diallo and it made an immediate difference, as the midfield looked slightly more robust and the home side were being made to work a bit harder to make an impression.
Adams then had the ball in the City net once again, but it was clearly offside.
That was the end of the meaningful action, as both sides now seemed to cancel each other out and the game drew to a close without any further damage for Saints. The odd thing was that I didn't think that the scoreline reflected the game, as Saints had played really well at times and without fear. They hadn't shut up shop and defended for the whole match, they had a good go at City with a patched up side, but the result was inevitable I suppose.
There are now several 'winnable' games coming up, starting with Brighton at the weekend and we should at least be able to field a strong team again.
Man of the Match
There were several eye catching cameos, particularly from Diallo and Tella, but once again, the beating heart of the team was James Ward-Prowse, the ever-present captain was everywhere and scored another excellent penalty. Just a shame that others mistakes made the defeat inevitable.