Raheem Sterling scored his 13th goal of the season to gave Peps unbeaten City a club-record 12th successive Premier League victory to restore their eight-point lead at the top of the Premier League table.
Sterling has now scored the critical goal in City’s last three victories. His third of the week was undoubtedly his most dramatic of all, igniting wild celebrations around the Etihad Stadium as well as from manager Pep Guardiola, coaching staff and the City bench.Embed from Getty Images
Speaking after the game the Spaniard spoke about Sterling’s increased performance level and growing influence this season, “Raheem is a match-winner, it was a fantastic goal, I am so happy for him” … “I think his team-mates give him the confidence and say ‘we trust in you’ but then you have to have the personality to do what he did in the last minute.”
Sterling’s goal, scored in the 96th minuite of the game was a cruel blow for a Saints side who had defended resolutely and executed Maurcio Pellegrino’s pre game strategy expertly. Conceding 74% of possession to a City team who like to be in control the ball, to play a more defensive minded game, utilising the pace of Nathan Redmond and Shane Long on the counter attack.
However, it was from set pieces where the Saints threatened most, with Wesley Hoedt heading against the bar from close range and Maya Yoshida volleying over from just six yards out. The south coast side went behind early in the second half after a Kevin De Bruyne free kick was deflected into his own net by Virgil van Dijk, Saints replied in the 75th minuite as a moment of individual brilliance from Sofiane Boufal set up and Oriol Romeu equaliser.Embed from Getty Images
Southampton came excruciatingly close to halting the seemingly unstoppable force that is Manchester City this season, and will feel that their performance justified leaving the Etihad with at least a point.
Southampton manager Mauricio Pellegrino has been criticised lately for his defensive approach and lack of flexibility, but opted to change his sides approach against City, shifting to a back three for the first time since a league cup loss to Wolverhampton earlier in the season. The Saints boss got his team selection and tactics spot on and deserves a lot of credit for the improvement in performances of late.
Speaking post match the Argentine said the loss was “hard to digest” and that he was proud of his players performance. Having rested Dusan Tadic and Charlie Austin, and with players such as Sofiane Boufal and Pierre Emile Hojbjerg starting to have a positive impact on the team, Saints are looking in good shape ahead of this weekends El Classicoast.