Manchester City were under enormous pressure to beat Southampton today and did just that, coming away with a crucial 3-1 victory to narrow the gap to 7 points ahead of the Liverpool game on Thursday night.
David Silva opened the scoring but then there was that familiar feeling of dread as Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg equalised after the Blues squandered a host of chances. A fortunate own goal and Sergio Aguero header meant a quick-fire double late in the first half were enough to secure the points.
Here’s how we rated the City side as they got back on track after a difficult festive period.
Ederson – 8
His passing was otherworldly today, precise even when under intense pressure. He pulled off an excellent reaction save to deny Charlie Austin and could do little about Hojbjerg’s powerful strike. Also, that turn.
Danilo – 7
Finally a convincing full-back performance and it came from Brazilian right-back Danilo, who was preferred again to Kyle Walker. He was rock solid all game and useful going forward too. Now the question is does he start against Liverpool – and if so, on what side?
Vincent Kompany – 7
Besides an errant pass or two, the captain was rock solid on his return from injury. Made a number of good front-foot tackles.
Aymeric Laporte – 8
An imperious performance by City’s standout centre-back who was a rock at the back, anticipating and intercepting everything that came his way. Furthermore, his distribution was top class.
Oleksandr Zinchenko – 6
A mixed performance by Zinchenko who was totally at fault for Southampton’s goal and almost conceded a penalty. Aleks isn’t a very good defender, but is very talented when he crosses the halfway line. His cross to Aguero was superb and set up City’s third and decisive goal, which took the wind out of Southampton’s sails. It’d be interesting to see this player in his natural position more often, but his only route into the team right now is as a left-back in Mendy and Delph’s absences.
Fernandinho – 8.5 (Man of the Match)
Welcome back Fernandinho! He was sorely missed and with him in the team, City looked solid and composed again. Few Premier League midfielders in the last five or so years have been as complete as Ferna, who is tenacious in the tackle and graceful with his passing. One particularly delightful pass picked out Sterling in the box. Southampton seemed to target him with bad tackles, one of which Hojbjerg deservely received a straight red card for.
Bernardo Silva – 7.5
His form has been average lately but today he looked closer to his best with direct runs, sweet passing and trickery. Set up David Silva’s opener after some nice link-up play with Mahrez and had a good game.
David Silva – 8
El Mago is back and much like Fernandinho, his presence in the team is felt. He’s always so involved and much like before his injury he has improved his ‘sense’ of being in the right position at the right time to score a goal. He could have had two in fact and should have scored before he found the net.
Riyad Mahrez – 6
Linking up with Bernardo down the right, the early signs from Mahrez were promising as he looked a threat. Unfortunately his impact was limited to that as he contributed little else and spurned a glorious chance to make it 4-1 when he shot straight at Alex McCarthy. Won’t keep Sané out of the team on this form.
Raheem Sterling – 7
Sterling was a direct, menacing threat all day to Southampton. He is an enormous talent and his pace forced Ward-Prowse’s own goal late in the first half. But he also continues to frustrate at times, making the wrong decision or dribbling to nowhere. Like Mahrez and several others, missed a good chance to find the net himself, but should have had a penalty when brought down in the box.
Sergio Aguero – 7.5
Finally a goal for Aguero who had been missing one since his return from injury. Like against Leicester, his work rate was phenomenal and when Zinchenko’s cross found his head, he made no mistake. He wasted a good chance before that, but was unlucky not to bag a second when he turned and shot in the box, hitting the woodwork.
Gabriel Jesus – 6
Got around 20 minutes including stoppage time and his pass picked out Mahrez, who should have made it 4-1.
Leroy Sané – N/A
Replaced Mahrez late in the day and looked lively, but no time to make any real impact. Should start against Liverpool now that he’s well rested.
Kyle Walker – N/A
Replaced Fernandinho in the dying moments. He’s had plenty of rest now but will there be a place for him against Liverpool? Guardiola might consider moving Danilo to the left for that game, which would allow Kyle to return at right-back.