LONDON: Manchester City’s victory over Bayern Munich proved perfect preparation for confronting surprising Southampton.
No matter that City were a little fortunate in midweek, the fact of victory over the Bundesliga champions was a reaffirmation of self-confidence for manager Manuel Pellegrini and his players.
That manifested itself in the clarity of the 3-0 win at Southampton which send City overtaking their rivals and back up into second place in the Premier League.
In fact City were positive right from the outset of team selections.
Pellegrini made four changes which appeared only to strengthen his team. Yaya Toure and Fernandinho returned after European suspensions in central midfield in place of Fernando and Frank Lampard; Pablo Zabaleta and Stevan Jovetic stepped up from the subs’ bench in place of Bacary Sagna and James Milner to give the team a more offensive ‘face’.
However cautious Southampton manager Ronald Koeman recalled Northern Ireland’s Steven Davis to midfield after injury in place of forward Shane Long.
Koeman’s men had been unbeaten in their previous five games but defeat has now suddenly put them under extra pressure of sliding down the table ahead of a visit to Arsenal and home test against Manchester United.
Inevitably the immediate focus of attention at St Mary’s fell on City striker Sergio Aguero after his midweek hat-trick. He could even have celebrated his 100th Premier League appearance with an early goal but when he was pulled down by Jose Fonte he was booked for diving rather than awarded a penalty.
However Aguero played a key role in ending Saints’ hopes of an eighth clean sheet when he rolled the ball into the path of Yaya Toure five minutes into the second half and watched the Ivorien shoot City ahead via a slight deflection off Toby Alderweireld,
That, for Saints, was the beginning of the end. City played the final 16 minutes with 10 men after the expulsion of Eliaquim Mangala but Frank Lampard’s strike and a close-range finish from Gael Clichy secured City’s third successive win.
The former Chelsea veteran, whom City want to keep rather than releasing him to New York City in the spring, described his team’s attitude as “absolutely bang on” in becoming the first visiting team to score more than one goal at Southampton this season.
“We knew what we were coming up against today, a very good team in very good form, and you could see from the outset that the right spirit was really there today – and that’s what won us the game.”
As for his personal future Lampard, whose loan expires at the end of December, said: “I haven’t spoke to City on that front, I’ve been concentrating week to week and getting fit when I was injured for a while.
“I’m not looking that far ahead. It’s nice that people are saying they want to me stay. We’ll see what happens.”