The Ped Report Southampton 0-3 City
The south coast and Southampton have often emerged as venues where City struggle to collect points. Even going back to the days when Portsmouth were in a kind of pomp, the outcome was more often a draw than a win, although the Blues do seem to get themselves past Bournemouth.
The Saints are a different kettle of fish. Most of us remember the Sadio Mane show last season when Liverpool's acquisition took City to the cleaners almost single-handedly in Southampton's easy 4-2 victory over City last time out. What would be in store today?
Tottenham had already set off the after-burners for the weekend caning the said Bournemouth 4-0 and lie in waiting should the tired out Stretfords provide the shock result of the weekend in beating champions-elect, Chelsea later today.
So a performance of lethargy from City would be unacceptable.
Retaining Bravo in goal, probably because Saints do not have a gigantic centre forward, Guardiola left us immediately with the feeling that City would need to score at least twice to collect the points. However a back line of Navas, Captain Crock Kompany, Otamendi and Clichy, suggested that today it was bit more about grit than beauty. In front were Yaya and Fernandinho behind De Bruyne, Silva and Sane with King Sergio in the predator role.
Would the inclusion of Kompany stir City's slovenly, generous defence? Would a 90-minute performance see him included in next week's FA Cup Semi-Final against Wenger's waning and off-colour Arsenal? Well he would answer his critics, this writer included before the clock was to strike 1930hrs.
But the first half was almost a story of City's late season. They didn't really get out of second gear. Aguero had a couple of early chances both of which flashed wide of the goal.
Tadic looked the most likely lad as far as Saints were concerned lifting their best chance over the bar as Gabbiadini started to tick. But the Blues looked considerably more compact and confident at the back, no doubt due to the presence of Kompany, whose leadership has been sorely missed on Planet Etihad this season.
Silva enticed a challenge from Hojbjerg who duly went into the referee's notebook. He was starting to weave his magic around the field but it had been a bit unproductive so far. Indeed, Silva did have City's best chance of the first half and also another from 25 yards neither of which was to trouble Forster in the Saints net.
Cedric's late challenge on Fernandinho was a sort of role-reversal with the Southampton man collecting a yellow card. In between all this City had a penalty claim waved away. Replays showed it was a good decision by the referee.
Half time arrived without a shot on target and with neither side looking like they were taking control of a match that maybe had more meaning for City. That said, it was what is becoming a regular first-half type performance from City where they did not take whatever chances came their way and may have slipped behind if Tadic had got his shot on target.
As the second half began, City needed to get on the front foot and to get themselves in front. The goal, when it came, was from perhaps the most unlikely of sources and from a corner! We often say at the Etihad that the last time City scored from a corner it was from Dave Watson, but many of us remember a certain goal on a Monday night in 2012 when Club Captain Vincent Kompany headed home to sink the Streford Ship. It was the same man who did the business at Southampton.
Navas seems to be revelling in being selected every week in his new role. Steaming on to a twenty five yarder after 55 minutes he saw the excellent Saints net minder heave his shot over the bar. It was to be only a temporary respite for Forster, however. City don't usually trouble the scorers from a corner but on this occasion, Silva`s flag kick was pin-point in terms of its delivery and it was a different, more determined centre back, Vincent Kompany that got there in front of his marker to head home.
In view of the last three seasons that Kompany has endured, this goal sparked off an unbelievable (Jeff) celebration from the Belgian who couldn't get to his fans quickly enough. This finally took the shackles off the match and as Saints started to look for a leveller, City got into their stride as Silva and De Bruyne started to take the match by the scruff of the neck.
When it arrived, City's second goal was one of those flowing moves that commenced deep in City's half and three passes later it was in the back of the opposition's net. Navas of all people headed one out to De Bruyne. His inside ball found Aguero, lurking in a deeper position, who brought in Silva who had already spotted De Bruyne haring down the right. De Bruyne drew the cover before slipping it left to the accompanying Sane, who has proved he doesn't miss these and gave Forster no chance.
A few minutes later the Blues were at it again as the magical Silva spotted Navas on the overlap. Ahead of him De Bruyne had made the kind of diagonal run synonymous with Zabaleta as Navas squeezed the ball behind the Saints defence. Neither Plastic Bertrand nor Yoshida could get there and it was Ca Plane Pour Moi as De Bruyne's chipped cross found Aguero having shaken off the cover and heading home from close range to complete the scoring for the day.
A great result at an awkward venue for City, but it would be wrong of me to let the Ped Report go without mentioning history in the making at St Mary's. In the 72nd minute, with City only leading 1-0 a free, on-target header from Yoshida was SAVED by Bravo. This is an incredible reversal in his recent fortunes where just about on every occasion the opposition has an attempt on target it ends up in the net. The times they are a changing!
In the end it was a comfortable result for City. The kind of result that depending upon today's outcomes, could cement City in the Champions League places. A defeat for the Stretfords would generate quite a large seven point gap between fourth and fifth place and Arsenal's trip to Middlesbrough doesn't even impact that. Yes, the Stretfords have games in hand, but one of them is against City and we have all heard today how exhausted they are at having to play midweek football, even if it is on a Thursday.
Next up is Sue's Liverpool against West Brom. It is always a tricky place to go to try to get a result. Tony Pulis has built a dangerous outfit this season and nobody enjoys visiting the Hawthorns. Will sue be ironing in the bedroom? Or will her boys continue to keep the pressure on City?
I cannot sign off without mentioning Everton. The Toffees have never been great bed fellows with me but after the week they have endured, I am pleased to see them ahead of the Stretford in the table. I cannot in any way condone the misjudged comments by Kelvin MacKenzie in the Sun. It is difficult to believe that the writer was not in search of some kind of controversy, not only in how they looked in terms of Ross Barkley's heritage, but to denigrate the people of Merseyside, THIS WEEK OF ALL WEEKS, in the way he did was in my view unacceptable. Has he not learned anything from the dark days post-Hillsborough? What possessed him to effectively stereotype the wealthy people of Merseyside as providers of alternative pharmaceuticals? Maybe I should invite him to come and have a look at places like Crosby, Formby and parts of the Wirral and maybe he would take a less jaundiced view. That said, I would be sentencing him to end-of-life care. His employers have long since been personae-non-grata in Liverpool and it was excellent to see Everton standing shoulder to should with Liverpool in memory of the 96.
The kind of comments offered by MacKenzie were a bit like those you get from Stretford fans whenever Liverpool is mentioned and in my opinion it is of great detriment to this profession.