Manchester City’s winning run continues after scraping past Southampton courtesy of yet another last minute winner from Raheem Sterling. A competitive first half, in which Southampton had opportunities of their own, was quickly put to rest thanks to Van Dijk’s own goal just after half time.
The Blues’ failure to kill the game off had alarm bells ringing throughout the Etihad, and sure enough, Sofiane Boufal’s lay off to Oriol Romeu punished City for their complacency. Luckily, after much heavy pressing, Pep’s new golden boy Raheem Sterling popped up with a cracker right at the death to seal all 3 points on a tricky afternoon.
Here’s what we learned:
Opponents will continue to frustratingly park the bus
Mauricio Pellegrino must have eagerly cast his eye over to the John Smith’s Stadium last Sunday to find out if there was any hope of a formula to combat City’s electric football, to his surprise the secret was less overwhelming than anticipated.
Eleven men behind the ball, tight marking and a quick turnover of play was Huddersfield’s secret weapon, but the predictable philosophy for playing a Pep Guardiola team nearly paid dividends.
Pellegrino utilised David Wagner’s tactics again tonight: let City enjoy plenty of possession on the halfway line, but don’t allow an inch of space further on.
Because of this, tonight’s encounter seemed a lot like groundhog day – and considering Southampton join Huddersfield in gaining some joy from this seemingly negative game plan, let’s not be surprised if West Ham attempt it at the weekend.
David Silva is a crucial cog in the system
Looking at the team sheet tonight, nobody was the least bit concerned about Ilkay Gundogan replacing David Silva in the starting line up. After all, Gundogan needed more playing time to get back into full swing and he is a perfectly adequate replacement.
However, for the majority of the match, the Spaniard was sorely missed — which told in City’s slow and sometimes sloppy build up in the first half and sporadically throughout the second.
A loss to Kevin De Bruyne would be catastrophic, but the little magician’s absence looks to be just as telling.
Raheem the Dream
He’s done it again, saving City’s skin and clawing another vital 3 points just minutes from the end. We’ve seen it time and time again this season: Bournemouth, Everton, Feyenoord, Huddersfield — all of those matches saved by Sterling’s lethal presence.
The former Liverpool youngster continues his revitalisation under Guardiola. When the 22-year-old looked up and wrapped his foot around the ball in that influential moment, you could just witness the confidence that he was going to strike yet again. Finding space in that packed Southampton crowd was a feat enough in itself.
This one might be his most impressive yet, and not just his best goal of the season so far, but a goal that ensures the blues’ irresistible momentum continues. Going into a pivotal fortnight, with United and Tottenham amongst the next three games, Sterling’s impact shows no sign of stopping.