Tasty lunch & off-side salad – MAN CITY 4 SOUTHAMPTON1

Saturday lunchtime at the Etihad and Manchester City and Southampton served a familiar dish from the menu of football clichés in that, it is indeed ‘a funny old game’.

City cooked up a winning recipe as they stayed on course for the Premier League title with a delicious 4-1 outcome, but it was an encounter packed with diverse flavourings and one that served to confuse the palate.

Win number 22 - City beat Southampton 4-1 at the Etihad. Courtesy @MCFC

Win number 22 – City beat Southampton 4-1 at the Etihad. Courtesy @MCFC

The three-goal margin suggests City polished off the opposition with consummate ease, and yet for much of the first half the visitors threatened their hosts with a nasty bout of indigestion.

Mauricio Pochettino’s team could be forgiven for having a bitter after taste with well founded claims that City’s second goal should have been disallowed.

Southampton’s young Argentine manager rightly remonstrated that assistant referee Mick McDonough was clearly ‘out to lunch’ when David Silva strayed three feet beyond the last defender, before passing to Samir Nasri.

Clearly offside - Incompetent match officials should have disallowed City's second goal. Courtesy @MCFC

Clearly offside – Incompetent match officials should have disallowed City’s second goal. Courtesy @MCFC

Pochettino was adamant it was the turning point of a close fought match and that his side had been defeated by referee Chris Foy, not Manchester City.

By contrast, City could have flattered to deceive even more had they not been so profligate in front of goal. Edin Dzeko saw a thundering header shave the crossbar, Yaya Toure’s scuffed drive rebounded off a post and out-of-sorts Alvaro Negredo should have bagged a brace.

Add to that Dzeko missed a sitter, to the extent that his intended goal-bound shot went out for a throw-in and Yaya had a solid penalty claim – prior to a pathetic dive in Southampton’s box that saw him booked – and  it could so easily have been 8-1.

Suffice to say that City ultimately deserved the spoils for their toil on a day when very little went the way of the Saints.

Going down - Dzeko goes to ground for City's penalty. Courtesy @MCFC

Going down – Dzeko goes to ground for City’s penalty. Courtesy @MCFC

Southampton’s unfortunate outing was epitomised by a dreadful injury to striker, Jay Rodriquez who, unchallenged, landed awkwardly and inflicted suspected ligament damage to his right knee.

With his World Cup hopes hanging by a thread the England hopeful was stretchered off to a generous ovation from Southampton and City supporters alike.

The match had barely begun when Dzeko accepted the invitation, afforded by Jose Fonte’s ridiculous challenge, to go down in the visitor’s 18-yard box.

Dead ball specialist Yaya stepped up to dispatch the 3rd minute penalty for his 22nd goal of the season, helping quell any early Etihad anxieties.

Hot spot - Yaya converted his 4th penalty of the season in Aguero's absence. Courtesy @MCFC

Hot spot – Yaya converted his 4th penalty of the season in Aguero’s absence. Courtesy @MCFC

With rookie keeper Paulo Gazzaniga deputising for Artur Boruc, City should have capitalised on their bright start. They didn’t.

Spurred on by the lively Adam Lallana and the rock-like Rickie Lambert, Southampton dominated possession. They drew level when Lambert maintained his astonishing 100% penalty conversion rate (31/31) for the Saints, powering his spot kick past Joe Hart in the 37th minute.

Pablo Zabaleta made an uncharacteristic error when conceding the penalty, fouling Jack Cork.

A game that had the potential to be a banana skin to City title hopes was proving to be just that…until the stroke of half-time.

Zaba Daba Don't! - but Zaba Daba Did and gave away a penalty. Courtesy @MCFC

Zaba Daba Don’t! – but Zaba Daba Did and gave away a penalty. Courtesy @MCFC

A swift passing move involving Yaya, Dzeko and Silva found the sublime Spaniard marooned offside. Merlin – savvy enough to detect the linesman’s lamentable positioning – squared the ball to Nasri who passed the ball past Gazzaniga from point blank range.

Pochettino protested to no avail.

Still smarting from the official’s incompetence, Southampton were slow to react when AK 47 Kolarov fired a high velocity round into their box and Dzeko powered his downward header inside the far post.

3-1 to City but totally against the run of play.

The two- goal salvo set the tone for the second half with City far more assertive and infinitely more comfortable.

Way ahead - Dzeko's powerful header made it 3-1 at half time. Courtesy @MCFC

Way ahead – Dzeko’s powerful header made it 3-1 at half time. Courtesy @MCFC

Javi Garcia replaced Fernandinho at the break. The Brazilian had been booked for handball, and Pellegrini probably feared Foy’s wayward refereeing could have seen City’s No 25 dismissed for perhaps ‘looking at the ref in a funny way’ or ‘stepping on the white lines’ – anything goes with this official who makes Clattenburg look almost competent!

Southampton’s high energy pressing game began to abate as the match wore on and fatigue became a factor. The Beast freshened up City’s frontline as Dzeko was withdrawn, the Bosnian having experienced his usual rollercoaster of highs and low in any given game.

Negredo has now gone a dozen games without scoring and his confidence has suffered as a result. Twice he could and should have scored opportunities that he would have buried before Christmas.

Beastly day - Negredo tried, but failed to end his 12 game goal drought. Courtesy @MCFC

Beastly day – Negredo tried, but failed to end his 12 game goal drought. Courtesy @MCFC

The Spaniard – a favourite with the fans – was literally inches from breaking his drought when his countryman and former Sevilla team-mate, Jesus Navas, crafted a teasing cross in between Gazzaniga and his despairing defenders in the 81st minute.

The Beast’s claw couldn’t quite connect, but the ball ran through to sub Stevan Jovetic, whose first touch of the game gave him the fifth goal of his City career and his team’s fourth on the day.

Most importantly it leaves Pellegrini’s men still in charge of their own destiny with seven games to play.

First touch - Supersub Jovetic fired home in the 81st minute. Courtesy @MCFC

First touch – Supersub Jovetic fired home in the 81st minute. Courtesy @MCFC

One of the funniest things to emerge in recent hours is a sentiment leaking from the open wounds of the vanquished Manchester United support, that they prefer City to win the title to ‘…ensure the PL crown stays in Manchester.’

It speaks volumes of their blind hatred for Liverpool and is perfectly timed with Anfield as City’s next port of call.

The Merseyside masses would have the world believe that red and white ribbons already adorn the PL trophy, such are the levels of giddiness at the prospect of ending their 24 years of crying and trying to become Champions of England.

Don't stop me now - Yaya just can't stop scoring - 18 in the PL and 22 in total. Courtesy @MCFC

Don’t stop me now – Yaya just can’t stop scoring – 18 in the PL and 22 in total. Courtesy @MCFC

Next Sunday offers the acid test when City go in search of a first win on the red side of Stanley Park since 2003 or, at the very least, continue a sequence of three consecutive draws since November 2011.

Sergio Aguero should be fit for selection – even if only as a super sub – and City’s attack continues to bang in the goals with the season’s total standing at 138.

Like City, Liverpool’s best form of defence is attack and with 88 scored, they are the only team to outstrip City’s 84 in the PL.

Upbeat - Manuel Pellegrini hopes to be smiling next Sunday night. Courtesy @MCFC

Upbeat – Manuel Pellegrini hopes to be smiling next Sunday night. Courtesy @MCFC

Perhaps more tellingly City have conceded 29 to ‘Pool’s goal against column of 39 – and that’s with City having played a game less.

City will take a massive step towards their second title in three years if they emerge undefeated next weekend.

Anything less would hand the initiative to the Scousers and upset City’s new band of supporters from Trafford Borough, London and Malaysia…and that would never do would it?

 

#TrustOurMP

By David Walker

www.readbutneverred.com

@djwskyblu

30 Comments

  1. April 6, 2014  10:25 am by GeorgeInIsrael Reply

    Surely, if City win the title, it would return to Manchester from the desolate wastes of Stretford!

  2. April 6, 2014  10:31 am by susan richardson Reply

    Well summed up. Thought the atmosphere was weird yesterday and it seemed to affect the team. We need to be louder and prouder to spur them on. Away contingent are always noisy hopefully extra vocal next week.

    • April 6, 2014  1:30 pm by David Walker Reply

      Lunchtime kick offs are often out of kilter with the norm but that wouldn't totally excuse the somewhat lack lustre approach from the Etihad crowd yesterday. Bit on the surreal side but the travelling support will pump up the volume at Anfield - just hope we've something to sing about. Next 3 home games are night-time affairs so it should be much better and hopefully a grand finale versus West Ham and the trophy ceremony on May 11.

  3. April 6, 2014  10:52 am by Fifthcolumnblue Reply

    Had a fiver on Yaya to score first and City to win 3-1. BUGGER!

    Still delighted with the 3 points, even if the performance was a decidedly curious and lacklustre one.

    Bring on the Scousers

    • April 6, 2014  1:32 pm by David Walker Reply

      Take one for the team No 5. Can you even begin to imagine winning PL title on goal difference by a solitary strike? What odds your flutter?

  4. April 6, 2014  11:10 am by DOUGLAS HENSHAW Reply

    The score flattered us slightly Saints played well in 1st half but they only had one shot on target. In the end we deserved the win. Officials have been poor all season but despite what the media says it has worked against as well as for us.Its all about the pts now I would take a deflection of someone's backside if it wins us the next game
    Brilliant bit of writing sir your getting good at this young David.

    • April 6, 2014  1:34 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thanks Doug - if 4-1 is winning ugly we could perhaps get used to it! We need to go to Anfield with confidence and belief - they're no supermen - we have what it takes to get the job done.

  5. April 6, 2014  11:32 am by Graham Ward Reply

    Certainly had our luck with the second goal, and all clubs get decisions, both bad and good, over the course of a season.
    Did yesterday's make such a great difference? The stats suggest otherwise, but, no doubt, Southampton argue otherwise.
    I certainly hope Rodriquez makes a speedy recovery from a nasty looking injury.
    I also thought Kompany had a composed performance at 10.25pm last night, despite the irritating drivel from Messers Lineker and Savage .

    • April 6, 2014  1:36 pm by David Walker Reply

      Agree on all points - Vinnie can be the Belgian Prime Minister when he retires of a Thornton's chocolate - politician/diplomat. Surprised he went on a show where City were to feature.

  6. April 6, 2014  12:16 pm by Richard Cooper Reply

    A strange game indeed. On 44 minutes we were pleased to be going in at half time at 1 - 1 against a lively Saints team, and offside goal apart the rest of the game was totally ours and yes it could have been 5 or 6 or seven.
    Am sure once Alvaro gets the goal we all wish for he will be back to his pre-injury best. Yet again a lively cameo from from Jovetic - he is a quality player and hope he will get more game time in the matches to come.
    Ya Ya had a frustrating afternoon. At one point I thought he was on a crusade to get 2 yellow cards. Calm down Ya Ya, we need you for all our remaing games !
    Once again, I am amazed at the number of people leave before the end, especially as they are watching one of the best City teams for years and certainly the most entertaing team in the PL

    • April 6, 2014  1:43 pm by David Walker Reply

      Yes RC - Yaya can be a Godsend or a bloody liability. Why he gets so petulant is beyond me. He often goes down too easily and stays down in a strop. He should exemplify all that is good about our onfield actvities, when it comes to temperament and composure. He seems so level-headed off the pitch, it's a puzzler. I have never understood people's desire to leave early but it takes all sorts.

      • April 7, 2014  9:04 am by blueinc Reply

        Yaya was fouled by a southampton player, the said player scrapped his studs down tha back of Yaya's leg which the ref blew a foul for, but no action was taken against the player (card given) for the synical foul, yet he is quick to give a card for simulation, yet you say he was petulant? In the game Yaya sat down feeling the effects of the foul even showing the ref stud marks on the back of his calf, but you say he was having a strop?
        Always enjoy reading your blog Dave but have to disagree on this.

        • April 7, 2014  6:18 pm by David Walker Reply

          I was referring to Yaya in a general sense not this game in isolation. He had every right to feel aggrieved at the foul and the fact that Chris Foy is a complete arsewipe when it comes to comptent refereeing - he's bloody awful, always has been. Yaya is a match winner, a game changer and so often our talisman BUT, he does sometimes have a habit of going down too easily and staying down for a breather.

  7. April 6, 2014  12:16 pm by Gary Derbyshire Reply

    A great result against a well organised side who played without fear. Due to work commitments I was 10 minutes late and missed our first goal, for the rest of the half I thought Southampton were superb and we were a tad lucky to go in 3-1 up at half time although I was far from complaining. 2nd half was much better and we deserved the win overall. I was praying for negredo to bag one, I think he needs one to go in off his backside and he'll be flying again. 3 valuable points and at this stage of the season it's points not performance that matters! On another note I thought Luke Shaw looked the part for a young lad, I think he'd slot in lovely for as left back?!? #TrustOurMP

    • April 6, 2014  1:46 pm by David Walker Reply

      We were very fortunate to have our noses in front at HT by two goals. On reflection, Southampton had some nice moves and played at a high intensity, but they lacked a cutting edge and ran out of steam 2nd half. If City need to increase their English contingent we could do worse than Shaw and Lallana but, because we'd be buying from a PL club, they'll cost the earth. Much better value overseas but it was ever thus.

      • April 7, 2014  6:44 am by Blue inc Reply

        Think we should be looking from within the club for are English contingent Dave, not buying from other PL clubs, Patrick Vieira has plenty of talent in his Team.

        • April 7, 2014  4:41 pm by David Walker Reply

          I'd be delighted if the young talent is ready to come through straight away - I just wonder if it might be a fraction too early? Obviously it's the way forward, hence the investment levels in the Etihad Campus etc.

  8. April 6, 2014  12:39 pm by Simon Dear Reply

    Earlier kick off .. Many fans including me struggled to get to the game, and a Saints team with nothing to lose and full of confidence, this as you say had Banana skin written all over it , let hope Mr Carroll throws a couple around the pitch today , but looking a head to next week come away unbeaten and its ours to lose .
    I think we can nick a win . 1-2 to City . Get behind the team blues we are in the final straight great read David .

    • April 6, 2014  1:51 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thanks Simon. Hopefully we'll raise our game in the intense surroundings at Anfield and avoid defeat. That's not meant to sound defeatist, just pragmatic. I wouldn't think Liverpool's defence are relishing coming up against Aguero, Silva, Nasri, Navas, Jovetic, Yaya , a reborn Beast and a focused Dzeko. Let's not be sucked in by the media hype - Pool are good but are they really THAT good?

  9. April 6, 2014  4:22 pm by John Evans7 TT Reply

    DW, an excellent epicurean epistle, worth at least three forks.

    I think MP is trying to get City to pace themselves. Certainly their first half performance was like an undercooked ‘Baltie Pie’, soft and lifeless, but after they turned up the Aga in the second half, there was only one team in it.

    Southampton huffed and puffed but for my money they created little real danger until our normally dependably strong bodied Argentinian was ‘corked’. I have not seen the replay, but from where I was sitting (in line) it seemed the initial contact was outside the area.

    Next up Sunderland, desperate for anything they can get. We cannot afford to give them even a crumb of comfort.

    PS Love the pictures!

    • April 6, 2014  8:47 pm by David Walker Reply

      Very eloquent John - thankyou. Three forks - any forkin knives to accompany them? ;-)

      • April 7, 2014  11:03 am by John Evans7 TT Reply

        I know you don't speak with forked tongue.

        However, if you can use chop sticks, I'll treat you to a pre match 'nosh up' at one of Manchester's better Chinese eateries. I know you travel a fair way to home games. One of the Sunday kick offs perhaps (unless you are a scoffer of prawn sandwiches in the press box)

        If I could afford his taxi fare! I'd invite 'GeorgeInIsrael' too.

        • April 7, 2014  4:44 pm by David Walker Reply

          Ah so! We've been to the one in Lincoln Square a few times - can't remember the name but great cuisine. It was the one featured on the City ITV 4 documentary where Edin & Aleks had lunch! Funny you mentioning prawn sandwiches - I've just written a feature for a client where Roy Keane's quote is utilised. I'll send you a link when published.

          • April 8, 2014  6:39 pm by John Evans7 TT

            I normally use ' Fat Tommie's Glamorous, but that fell 'fowl' of the health inspectors (didn't pay the bung).

            So the best and safest Chinky right now is probably Ocean Treasure http://www.oceantreasure235.co.uk/

            Closer but not truly Chinese is the Vermillion which is a cock stride from the ground. You've got my email so let me know which if any, you prefer. If it's a Sunday need to book early,

        • April 11, 2014  5:37 am by GeorgeInIsrael Reply

          Thanks for the invite; mind you, a taxi would take a long time to get there! I was actually thinking of coming to Manchester for the last game of the season. However, just the air fare would cost me over 600 quid, so putting my first visit to the Etihad on hold.

    • April 7, 2014  12:29 pm by carole Reply

      Sure you've hit on something here about Pelle wanting the team to 'pace themselves' John! I found it very puzzling that a team like City...who have the top possession stats in the PL , can concede so much of it against Soton. We usually dominate the ball home and away, as we did at OT.
      So I think you are right. The way the manager wants us to play is very intense and uses up enormous reserves of energy. He isn't content to go ahead and sit back at say, 2-0, and have a rest as a Mourinho would. We also faded badly at the Emirates in the 2nd half after our hard work against United during the week. VK even alluded to how punishing our defensive system is on MOTD....Maybe it's a style of play that is impossible to maintain for a long, long season unless we do pace ourselves mentally as well as physically.

      • April 7, 2014  4:47 pm by David Walker Reply

        Good point both. We'll be better equipped to deal with it after the next transfer window with some youthful and talented players added to the rota e.g. Mangala - faster than Walcott apparently and a CB! Bit of a contrast with MDM - bless him.

  10. April 6, 2014  5:16 pm by Pete Lynch Reply

    Great post match read as always David. Aside from.Silva I dont think anyone had a particularly gteat game. Still ours to lose!

    • April 6, 2014  8:48 pm by David Walker Reply

      Spot on Pete. The test comes on Sunday. With one act we can shut up all the hysterical scousers and the fawning media. It's put up or shut up.

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