Manchester City v Southampton
City of Manchester Stadium, Saturday 28th November 2015
> Appalling performance in the first 25 mins
> Great goal from Shane Long
This was always going to be a difficult week, away to Manchester City on Saturday, home to Liverpool in the League Cup ¼ Finals on Wednesday and home to Aston Villa on the following Saturday. The team selection showed Koeman's thinking, with Cédric rested (maybe to give his head a chance to heal), as well as Clasie and Tadić being on the bench. Romeu was in for a rare start, with Ward-Prowse and Yoshida coming in, the Japanese player playing out of position at right back again.
Although I understand Koeman wanting to keep players fresh for the crucial game with Liverpool on Wednesday, I think that with the benefit of hindsight, he made a mistake with his team selection here. The team started slowly and looked out of sorts, this was compounded by Man City coming out of the blocks like an express train. If it wasn't for the ever improving Stekelenburg, then Saints would have been 3-0 down within the first six minutes.
To show the sort of determination city had, Wanyama conceded a silly free kick outside the penalty area and the kick was taken by Kolarov. A really fierce shot was heading for the top corner of Saints goal, but Stekelenburg just got to it and managed to palm it down. He managed to drop onto the ball, which was just as well, as there were three City players following up, two of whom ended up in the net. There was no doubting that the Manchester team were really fired up for this.
Much was made of Yoshida's mistake that followed and led to the first goal, but to be honest, the rest of the defence were too slow in reacting and Sterling and De Bruyne were like lightening. The move started with Fonte passing out to Yoshida on the right, but he tried to play through Sterling, who simply took the ball from him and went to the byline and crossed for De Bruyne who had raced into the area from almost the halfway line. Bang, one-nil. There were at least four Saints shirts in front of goal, none of whom seemed to react and Stekelenburg had no chance.
And only nine minutes had elapsed. During those nine minutes Stekelenburg had been in almost constant action. It didn't look good. It didn't get any better.
Next there was a misunderstanding between Romeu and Wanyama, when the Spaniard squared the ball to the big man and he didn't react. The ball was simply taken away from Wanyama and in the ensuing mêlée there was an appeal for handball in the Saints penalty area, as the ball appeared to strike Davis on the arm. I thought at the time that this was the case, but the replay seemed to show the referee was right to ignore it, as Davis clearly was moving his left arm out of the way of the path of the ball.
There was an element of bad luck in the second goal that came on 20 minutes, as a shot from Delph took a deflection off van Dijk and completely wrong footed Stekelenburg. You couldn't complain too much, as it had been virtually one way traffic to this point.
The tide at last started to turn, but it really didn't look good, when Fonte got a knock and had to go off, being replaced by Caulker. Ironically, it was his long balls over the top that began to unsettle City and Saints began to get a toehold in the game.
The best chance for Saints came when van Dijk did one of his lumbering runs up the pitch and the City players backed off him. From some way out the big dutchman hit a powerful shot that had Caballero completely beaten, but the ball struck the joint of the crossbar and upright, bouncing away. That just illustrated the weather conditions, as it had been raining hard all game, as when the ball hit the frame, water bounced up along the whole length of the bar.
Halftime arrived, but Saints now had to chase the game, 2-0 down against a really potent counter-attacking team. It wasn't going to be easy.
In a clear tactical change Tadić was brought on for Romeu at the start of the second half and straight away the team looked more threatening, pressing City high up the pitch.
The referee awarded Saints a free kick an age after the event, when he felt that advantage hadn't worked, after a foul on Davis. Tadić took the kick passing to Mané, who raced to the byline, sending in a perfect cross which found Shane Long out jumping the City defence to plant the ball firmly in the back of the net. Great goal and 2-1 now. Saints were right back in it.
Saints were playing some wonderful stuff now and it was during this period of pressure that the ball seemed to strike Fernandinho on the arm in the area, but once again, the referee chose to ignore it. Also once again, it was probably the right decision.
The big danger when chasing the game is that you will leave gaps at the back and that is exactly what happened on 69 minutes, when completely against the run of play, Kolarov found himself in acres of space and had the time to pick his spot and place the ball beyond Stekelenburg. 3-1.
Essentially that was game over. Saints never really got over that catastrophic first 25 minutes. They were too slow out of the blocks, the formation was wrong and the team selection was wrong. By the time that was sorted out, the game was gone. Manchester City are too good a side to let a lead like that slip.
I guess we will have to see how the other two games pan out this week, to see if the team selection here was ultimately worth it. Who would be a football manager, eh?
26 Demichelis Booked
11 Kolarov Booked
18 Delph (Fernando - 70' )
17 De Bruyne
42 Y Touré
07 Sterling (Silva - 75' )
10 Agüero (Bony - 64' )
15 Jesús Navas
06 Fonte (Caulker - 36' )
17 van Dijk
14 Romeu (Tadic - 45' )
16 Ward-Prowse Booked (Juanmi 77')
Man City 3
- De Bruyne 9′
- Delph 20′
- Kolarov 69′
- Long 49′
FT 90 +4
Referee : Roger East
Attendance : 54,102
- Southampton 54%
- Manchester City 46%
- Manchester City 16
- Southampton 12
- Manchester City 9
- Southampton 8
- Manchester City 6
- Southampton 4
- Manchester City 14
- Southampton 11