Southampton v Manchester City
30th December 2018
Højbjerg scored a really good goal after taking the ball from Zinchenko
IBO Reporter : channonite
Funnily enough, this was not as bad as it appears at first glance. Probably the worst thing about it was Højbjerg getting sent off with a straight red, just five minutes from full time. This means him missing the next four matches, three for the sending off and an additional one for it being his second straight red of the season. We can ill afford to lose our key player at the moment and the games in order are: Chelsea away on the evening of Wednesday, 2nd January; Derby away in the FACup on Saturday, 5th January; Leicester away on Saturday, 12th January and Everton at home on Saturday, 19th January. Bit rubbish then. Still it provides an opportunity for someone else to step up to the plate, as they say in rounders, sorry, baseball.
Apart from that, there was reason to be hopeful, as the game was still enjoyable in parts, particularly the first half after Højbjerg’s goal, when he poached the ball from Zinchenko and slammed it into the top corner of the net to make it 1-1. It was something to warm the cockles of your heart. Shame he went and ruined it later.
First thing to say about the team, was that the right back change was telegraphed several days before the game, with young Ramsey being given his first team debut at right wing back, rather than slot in the returning Cédric. Targett remained as the left back. Hasenhüttl chose to return to the more conventional two central defenders and use Stephens and Bednarek. In midfield, Romeu was joined in the midfield by the returning Højbjerg and Lemina. The wide players were Ward-Prowse and Elyounoussi, with Austin the sole striker.
Looked at from the point of view of the result, the match went the way we were all expecting, nearly all the points of interest coming in the first half. From that starting point, I am going to concentrate on the first half of the match, as the second half seemed to be all about damage limitation. Just look at the possession stats to see how much of the ball Saints had. It was actually worse than that in the second half, when the team appeared to give up on even trying to equalize.
The team, as it was originally set out on paper, did not last all that long. For the first few minutes Saints were right up against it and it wasn’t long before the cracks in the defensive lineup began to show. Stephens was dispossessed by Sterling, who played the ball to the unmarked Silva and it was only an instinctive reaction save from McCarthy that kept the score line at 0-0.
Saints then had a glorious chance to score. Højbjerg played a ball from the right to Elyounoussi, who threaded a great ball forward to Austin for a one on one with Ederson in the City goal. Except that Charlie made a complete rickets of it and the ball ended up trickling through to the grateful arms of the City goalie.
From playing out of defense City went one up in the simplest of manners. The defender played it forward to Bernardo Silva on the right wing, from there he played it to Mahrez, who returned it to the City number 20. He squared it to Silva and bang it was in the net. 0-1. One thing struck me in the build up was the ineffective defending, which included the midfield on that side, which was Lemina. He really didn’t look as though he even wanted to be bothered.
It was about now that something odd happened. From being completely over-run, Saints went on the offensive and pressed City right back into their half, rather than rely on the odd break, as they had been doing. It was City that were reduced to playing on the break, which they can do to great effect. From one of these, McCarthy made another great save, this time almost from the feet of Aguero, when it looked as though he must score.
Then came the moment that I enjoyed the most. City had been showboating in front of their own goal for the whole of the first half, with Austin and Højbjerg almost catching them out on two separate occasions. They now were caught out, with Zinchenko having his pocket picked by Højbjerg, who wasted no time in rifling the ball into the roof of the city net, even with three City players around him. Great goal. 1-1.
Within minutes Saints should have had a penalty. Ward-Prowse Was unceremoniously hauled down in the Penalty Area by the errant Zinchenko, but the referee was having none of it and waved the appeals away. I was convinced at the time, but watching it back later, I was even more convinced and couldn’t shake the feeling that if the boot had been on the other foot......
Then came the sequence that finished the match off.
After a period of sustained Saints pressure City worked the ball forward to Sterling on the left. Ward-Prowse stayed with him and somehow Sterling, in trying to centre the ball, managed to hit the Saints player and the ball found it’s way past McCarthy. An own goal by Ward-Prowse and it was 1-2. Right on 45 minutes. Cruel.
Worse was to come.
In time added on a speculative cross found Aguero alone in front of McCarthy and the ball ended up in the back of the net, via McCarthy’s outstretched hand. 1-3. Frankly McCarthy should have done better, but he had already made two outstanding saves, so I will cut the guy a bit of slack on that one, particularly as he made another two great saves in the second half.
So, from being level pegging with seconds of the half remaining, Saints were going in 1-3 down.
That changed the whole complexion of the game. It was very unlikely that they were going to find a way back into the game, but Hasenhüttl did replace the pathetic looking Lemina with Redmond after the break and a short while later, Romeu gave way to Valery.
The rest of the game was hardly worth talking about. Right up until the 85th minute when frustration clearly got the better of Højbjerg, when he scythed down Fernandinho and got a straight red for his troubles. Stupid, as he now misses the next four games. Three for the straight red and a further one as it is his second red card of the season. So, we will probably not see our best player again until the home match against Crystal Palace on the 28th January.
Man of the Match
I don’t know why I should award anything after that, but without McCarthy, City would have scored six, or seven goals. So, Alex McCarthy is my man of a depressing match.
Up until the sending off I was not too despondent. It was a loss yes, but by no means unexpected. Højbjerg’s dismissal put a different slant on things, as it is going to prove a heck of a challenge to win games without him.
Højbjerg's straight red was the low point of the game. Now our most influential player will be missing for the next three games
35 Bednarek - Booked 73'
23 Højbjerg - Dismissed 85'
14 Romeu Valery 59'
18 Lemina Redmond 45'
10 Austin - Booked 58' (Long 68')
3 Danilo - Booked 78'
4 Kompany - Booked 72'
20 Bernardo Silva
25 Fernandinho (Walker 86')
26 Mahrez (Sané 84')
10 Agüero - Booked 32' (Gabriel Jesus 73')
Man City Subs
33 Gabriel Jesus
Sunday 30th December
- Højbjerg 37'
- Silva 10'
- Ward-Prowse 45' (og)
- Agüero (45'+3 minutes)
Referee: Paul Tierney
- Southampton 23%
- Manchester City 77%
- Southampton 5
- Manchester City 14
Shots on Target
- Southampton 4
- Manchester City 6
- Southampton 3
- Manchester City 8
- Southampton 11
- Manchester City 10