The Ped Report City 2-1 Southampton
It was a raw night in East Manchester as the world awaited City`s first points loss since the first match of the season at home.
The Saints of the South Coast, commonly known in Portsmouth as "the Scummers" arrived Chez City to deploy their definition of "the Beautiful Game" and believe me, the stuff they delivered could not in any area be described as "beautiful".
I have never forgiven this "wonderful family club" for the grief and expenditure they put City to at the last ever match at Maine Road, and I doubt I`m going to start now. But Premier League football can be an unforgiving game and if you arrive at the Etihad, intent upon strangling the life out of the match, you`d better take whatever chances you create, because if you don`t, the time you try to waste will come back and bite you. Especially if the man with the white fangs is Raheem Sterling.
Fraser Forster must be the most despicable type of net minder that I have ever seen play against City, various Stretford goalkeepers excepted. From minute one this contrary England hopeless hopeful wasted time, taking seemingly hours to take goal kicks, intent on frustrating not only us fans, but the players themselves. And to an extent he achieved just that.
The problem for him arose deep into the stoppage time he had generated almost single-handed with some uninspiring assistance from Redmond. As the referee added on 5 extra minutes, then extra minutes on top of that for the persistent time-wasting within those 5 minutes, up stepped Raheem, for the third match in a row to snatch the match and the 3 points when this horrible excuse for a football team thought they would be laughing at us. City had the last laugh and, boy was it the loudest.
Pep rang in a few changes with David Silva relegated to the bench at the expense of Gundogan, still in my mind not fully fit from his season-long injury. Sterling was switched to the left, not his most effective starting position, due to a virus for Sane who was not involved. Kompany was risked alongside Otamendi and the re-shaping ahead meant that de Jesus and Aguero were accommodated together.
Immediately the shape of the match showed the shape of things to come as the Blues started to get into their stride. It immediately became dangerous to concede anything as the procession that followed, such as throw-ins taken from the wrong places and called back by the referee, same with free kicks, plus the dead ball antics of the bag of manure at the opposite end of the pitch from Ederson, saw the clock almost speed up. Quite why it is when say, Fernandinho gets a yellow card after 3 fouls for "persistent infringement" I`m not sure when this so-called man persistently, blatantly and unashamedly wastes time and does not get similarly sanctioned is a mystery to this writer.
Amazingly, in the first half, Southampton had the best 2 chances and both from corner kicks. Their first attack saw Hoedt unable to capitalise on a free header from a corner as he rattled the woodwork and their second foray saw them scorn an even simpler chance when Yoshida couldn`t capitalise. As I said, you need to make sure you take your chances.
For their part, City were kept a long way from the Saints six-yard box, but the chances did arrive and just as last Sunday, they weren`t taken. Aguero, Sterling and de Jesus were all guilty as City, despite the over whelming possession stats, went in at half time at 0-0.
In days gone by I used to refer to the 10 minutes after half time as "City time" as in the years of winning the title, they always seemed to score in that period. It happened against Huddersfield last Sunday and it happened again tonight. With City gaining a free kick house left, up stepped the magnificent Kevin de Bruyne. He drove it in to the near post. Aguero ran across it unable to apply the finishing touch, Otamendi may have claimed it but missed it, but Van Dijk didn`t and just as Otamendi did last Sunday, Southampton`s best player turned it past Forster and in. KDB was credited with it as his shot was on target.
The relief valve was released around the Etihad. This would surely bring Southampton out and City would prise them apart in the new-found spaces. Wrong. They continued to sit in, seemingly in a damage limitation formation.
Their lack of ambition, lack of anything really, appeared to be allowing City a 1-0 victory when an unusual attack built up down City`s right. Walker allowed the cross to the vacated Redmond at the far end of City`s penalty area. Delph was too slow to respond, Sterling didn`t read or react to the run of Romeu who slammed home Redmond`s pass and set the scene for an unlikely 1-1 draw. Such was the celebration, you would have thought that the football spoilers from the deep South had won the World Cup and the Eurovision Song Contest all in one.
With the immortal "Come on City" ringing around from the grades, the Blues had to get back on the front foot and wrestle the three points. All the shots seemed to be at the right height for Forster and it just didn`t look to be City`s day. But as the Stretfords in the pubs were thinking "It`s only 6 points now and when we beat them at Sold Trafford it will be only 3", the referee added a minimum of 5 added minutes.
During the early part of this term, a Southampton player went down for nearly a minute when there was clearly nothing wrong. Redmond then hammered the ball upfield into the corner where there were no chasers. Another near minute was wasted taking a throw-in, continually try to take it from the wrong place and then City were suddenly at the top of the field in a flash. A bit of pinball saw Sterling score but interference with Fraser was the verdict, no goal and City`s 3 points appeared to be at an end.
But no, that was not the deal. As those in red and white thought they`d done enough and with the match heading into the 96th minute, City`s last-minute executioner-in-chief, Sterling, played a flattish-looking pass into de Bruyne who was in fact, marked. The Belgian predator played the one-two back to Sterling who sized it up and curled a beauty into the postage stamp and finally Forster got what he deserved. Nul points. 2-1 City.
The celebrations, lead by Pepe were reminiscent of the "Aguero" moment as the shattered Saints, a misnomer if there ever was one, were left to lick the wounds they had created themselves.
You get what you deserve in this league and if you don`t come to compete, you don`t deserve to win. Southampton got, deserved and won nothing. I hope they enjoyed their long drive or short flight back to the South coast, because 54000 people did not enjoy the so-called style of football they served up. City fans will be delighted at what the team finally achieved in stealing another last-kick winner.
And what about Raheem Sterling? Heralded and then maligned at Liverpool, maligned in his early days at City, has he finally come to terms with what he is about? Three matches on the trot, now, he has conjured up a late winner for his team and this has made him almost irreplaceable in City`s starting line-up. Yes, I prefer him on the right, but his new role of slipping inside to add to the goalscoring strength has seen him out perform the more-established goal merchants, who can take note of his late runs and the confusion he causes on the edge of the box.
He delivered the goods from an awkward position when de Jesus and Aguero couldn`t mark from easier situations. De Bruyne took the game by the scruff of the neck in the second half, but found it difficult to make any headway. Long range efforts from him, Fernandinho and Gundogan came to nothing.
It looked solid enough , the goal apart, at the back where Ederson was magnificent as an additional centre back. Fernandinho was his usual self, but it was ahead of him that the problems arose. Gundogan`s passing didn`t always find their targets, but he wasn`t the only guilty one. The match was crying out for David Silva, but it was probably unlikely that immediately after his introduction, Southampton equalised. His space-creating ability was never in question and him arriving on to the field saw a little more fluency arrive with him.
So the English footballing world will once again be disappointed that City collected another vital 3 points and maintain their 8-point advantage over the Stretfords. Once again the radio pundits disdainfully predicted a landslide win for City, but for the second match in succession they won ugly. The clowns on Talk Stretford 1089 declared that United`s victory over Watford would "Ramp up the pressure on City". What football are they watching? And this morning? No praise, once again for Sterling`s fantastic achievements over the last 7 days, they still cream themselves over the like of the serial diver Young, or Rashford or a bottle of tomato ketchup or more or less anyone or anything Stretford Red. Even, this morning, it`s all about Rooney scoring 3 against West Ham. Well what a title decider that one was.
As I telephoned dear Susan, blue-tooth of course, on the way home, quite rightly she was eulogising over the goals scored by her dear Liverpool, especially Salah`s first which showed an incredible degree of skill, she must be very frustrated, sometimes, of Klopp`s team selection. As Tottenham`s challenge seems to be waning, Liverpool sit on the lip of the top four and need to be picking up points against the likes of Chelsea and Stretford and Spuds. Not City of course!
So MoyesOut brings his new West Ham charges to the Etihad at the weekend for the first of three tough battles which sees the Irons face City, Chelsea and Arsenal back-to-back. As Arsenal and Stretford go head-to-head, interesting things could be afoot ahead of the derby.