team 2012-13

Manchester City 3-2 Southampton (1-0 HT)

Barclays Premier League

Etihad Stadium - Sunday 19th August 2012

Tevez 40'
Dzeko 72'
Nazri 80'
Lambert 59'
S Davis 68'
Ref: H Webb
Att: 46,190
It was not without some nerves that I took my seat after a BBQ at a friends, to watch Saints on Sky TV take the field in a proper Premiership game for the first time in seven long seasons.

Just to look at the Manchester City team sheet was a sharp intake of breath moment to realise the scale of what Saints are to face this season. As for Saints teamsheet there were certainly some surprises there. The biggest one seemed to be Rickie Lambert on the bench (One of seven, rather than the five of recent seasons). As it turned out, this was a master stroke. What was the point having Rickie running around the pitch early on, when he can be brought on later in the game, completely fresh?

Nigel Adkins plan seems to be to use variations of the formations he tried out in pre-season. Rodriguez seemed to be on the left wing and to be honest, he seemed like a fish out of water there. Guly was ploughing a lone furrow up front and Puncheon was out on the right. I get the feeling that the formation used against Man City is actually designed for other personnel, but as yet at least two of them have not managed to get on board the bus.

So, to the nuts and bolts of the game :

When the match kicked off, the first thing to notice was the sheer speed of the Man City team. Who on earth said that you have more time on the ball in the Premiership had obviously not told City. Not only were they quick, but it became clear that their speed of thought was quick as well. Saints to their credit did not panic and on another day might have had a penalty awarded when Rodriguez was unceremoniously hacked down just inside the box.

Thirteen was the unlucky number in this game for Aguero. He was pounding down the left flank in the thirteenth minute, when he was tackled by the impressive Clyne. Although a fair tackle, Aguero fell awkwardly and was clearly in agony. Last seen he was being taken off the pitch on a stretcher. Hopefully it turns out to not be as bad as it looked.

Saints were on the back foot and a couple of minutes later Hooiveld was suckered into upending Tevez in the box. A painful lesson for him. Fortunately City decided to let Silva take the resultant penalty and he struck a tame shot which Davis beat away.

That man Tevez was involved again in the 40th minute when he sprung Saints offside trap (just - maybe!) and struck a powerful shot underneath Davis at the near post. 1-0.

Saints managed to make halftime without any more goals conceded, although the stats looked horrendous, with City having more than 80% possession.

From the beginning of the second half Saints were again on the back foot and you had the feeling that if City were to shake themselves from their pre-season state of mind, then the game would be over.

What changed then was Adkins decided in the 55th minute that it was 'Rickie Time' and the clearly unhappy Rodriguez was replaced with Lambert. The front three were shuffled around and immediately you could see a more effective Saints attack.
The result four minutes later was a great piece of interplay between all the Saints forwards, particularly Lambert, Lallana and Guly, which resulted in Rickie driving a low shot into the far corner of the net, beyond Hart. 1-1.

The Saints fans, players and staff all went mental. So did I.

The game was changing and in the 65th minute the excellent Ward-Prowse, who had run himself into the ground, was replaced by Steven Davis. This proved to be another inspired Adkins substitution, as less than three minutes later Saints had grabbed the lead. following a City corner, a slack pass was intercepted and we were then treated to the sight of a red cavalry charge up the pitch, with five Saints against three City players at one point. The end result was Davis striking a shot beyond Hart. 1-2. Dreamland!

More than twenty minutes to go. Could they hang on. Well, that was a foolish thought. Saints went on to concede two more goals, the second of which was an alarming mistake by Fox where instead of heading behind for a corner, he headed right into the path of Nasri, who said thankyou and promptly scored.

To be honest, even then, Saints looked anything but a spent force and were pressing right up until the end for the equaliser.

Conclusions

I can't remember the last time I was so proud of the team, even though they lost. They have now proved they can mix it with the best that the division has to offer.

There were some real success stories in this game. None more so than young James Ward-Prowse. He was astounding. I have seen quoted that he completed more than 80% of his passes, which if true is very impressive. Rickie has now proved that he can score at this level and he really looked at home in the Premiership. Nigel Adkins proved to me that he has what it takes as well. His ploy to leave Rickie on the bench and bring him on against tiring players later in the game paid off.

Balanced against this were some disappointments. Rodriguez is not a left winger. He looked way out of his depth over there and there was absolutely no sort of understanding between him and Fox. Fox himself was another disappointment. I think the sheer pace of the game caught him out, although I am sure he will still come good and make the left back position his own. Another that was true of was Lallana. He rapidly found that he wasn't allowed time on the ball and the players he was facing were at least as adept and skilful as him. Puncheon tried hard and was obviously in the side for his Premier League experience, but I couldn't help thinking how Ramirez would slot straight into that position. finally Schneiderlin had an off day. I am sure he will be crucial in the days to come, but this game seemed to pass him by.

Still, more positive than negative, so bring on Wigan!

Channonite 20.08.2012

Teams

Manchester City

01 Hart
04 Kompany
05 Zabaleta
06 Lescott
22 Clichy
08 Nasri Booked
17 Rodwell
21 Silva (Balotelli - 72' )
42 Y Toure
16 Aguero (Dzeko - 14' )
32 Tevez (Kolarov - 87' )

Substitutes
30 Pantilimon
13 Kolarov
15 Savic
07 Milner
34 De Jong
10 Dzeko
45 Balotelli

Southampton

01 K Davis
02 Clyne
05 Hooiveld
06 Fonte
13 Fox Booked
04 Schneiderlin Booked
16 Ward-Prowse (S Davis - 65' )
20 Lallana
21 Guly
42 Puncheon (Sharp - 86' )
09 Rodriguez (Lambert - 55' )

Substitutes
12 Gazzaniga
22 Richardson
23 Shaw
25 Seaborne
08 S Davis
07 Lambert
11 Sharp

Match Stats


Possession

Man City 64%
Southampton 36%

Shots
Manchester City 20
Southampton 9

On target
Manchester City 15
Southampton 6

Corners
Manchester City 7
Southampton 3

Fouls
Manchester City 4
Southampton 6