Manchester City 4 Southampton 1 match report: City gallop on after David Silva’s lucky escape
Two goals for home side on stroke of half-time after disputed decisions leave Pochettino fuming
Saturday 05 April 2014
Manchester City fans used to wonder if a gypsy’s curse was behind their team’s serial mishaps at their old Maine Road home. Whether truth or urban myth, it is clear that the curse has not followed the team to the Etihad.
This was an afternoon, after all, when just about everything went City’s way, when they somehow plucked a decisive 3-1 lead out of a disjointed first-half display, and when it was impossible not to feel that the force is with Manuel Pellegrini’s men. There is probably no other team in the country that can step up a gear when they really need to as well as City do, but there is no doubting they had a helping hand along the way yesterday.
With the game finely poised at 1-1 in first-half stoppage time, City were the beneficiaries of a refereeing error which allowed them to go back into the dressing room on top. David Silva was a couple of yards offside as Edin Dzeko touched on Yaya Touré’s forward pass, but assistant referee Michael McDon-ough’s flag stayed down and Silva squared for Samir Nasri to apply the low finish. Moments later Aleksandar Kolarov crossed for Dzeko to nod home and City were on their way to a victory that lifts them within a point of their next opponents, Liverpool, ahead of the Merseysiders’ trip to West Ham today.
It was a decision that angered the Southampton manager, Mauricio Pochettino, who walked on to the pitch at the final whistle to speak to the referee, Chris Foy. “I’d better not repeat it,” said Pochettino when asked what he had told Foy, though he voiced his discontent about every-thing else. Pochettino complained not just about Nasri’s goal but also Foy’s decision to award City’s third-minute penalty, rolled home by Touré. In fairness, it was stupid of Jose Fonte to flick out a leg as Dzeko ran past him, offering the Bosnian an open invitation to go down.
An unhappy Pochettino said afterwards: “I think those two decisions killed the game – that penalty we conceded and the second goal. I have just seen it on TV and I don’t think you can give a penalty like that after just two minutes, it is not right. The offside was clearly two metres offside and seems like the type of decision you see in a kids’ game at school.” Pellegrini saw it differently: “Maybe it was a mistake by the referee but I don’t think the second goal was the difference – we won 4-1.”
On a sour afternoon for Southampton, those squabbles paled into insignificance beside the cruel, probably season-ending injury suffered after 26 minutes by their leading scorer, Jay Rodriguez, in front of the watching England manager, Roy Hodgson.
After stretching to reach a high ball, Rodriguez landed awkwardly and looked in obvious agony as he went down holding his right knee. He was carried off on a stretcher, with his leg in a splint and tears in his eyes, and it seems certain he is out of the World Cup reckoning after a fine season which had brought 15 Premier League goals and his England breakthrough.
Pochettino said: “It doesn’t look good. We’ll wait for the result tomorrow or the day after, but is a tough blow for him. We hope he’ll be out as little as possible but it doesn’t look that way.”
Despite losing Rodriguez, Southampton played the more fluent football in the first half. Adam Lallana was influential and would have got through on goal had he controlled Rickie Lambert ball over the home defence. Instead it was left to Lambert to cancel out Touré’s early goal eight minutes before the break with his 31st successful spot-kick for the South Coast club after Pablo Zabaleta’s trip on Jack Cork. Joe Hart guessed the right way, but Lambert’s strike still beat him.
At that stage City might have rued Dzeko sending a free header against the crossbar at 1-0, but then came the match-changing four minutes of first-half injury time. Pellegrini admitted: “The first half we didn’t play well, we had a big distance between our lines and didn’t recover the ball well [but] we scored three goals and I don’t recall clear chances for Southampton apart from the penalty.”
It is that kind of efficiency that wins League titles, and the second half was a different story. Paolo Gazzaniga, Southampton’s goalkeeper, saved from Jesus Navas and Dzeko before City confirmed the inevitable with nine minutes remaining when their substitute Stevan Jovetic tapped in a low Navas cross.
After that Touré struck a post, although the Ivorian, like his team, had a mixed day: he was deservedly booked for diving in the box, and had an angry confrontation with team-mate Martin Demichelis in the closing minutes.
It was a moody performance all round, but still enough to secure a 14th win in 15 home games this season. The Etihad is probably not where the title will be won or lost, though, and City can afford no repeat of their first-half lethargy at Anfield next Sunday.
Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Kolarov; Touré, Fernandinho (Garcia, 46); Navas, Silva (Jovetic, 77), Nasri; Dzeko (Negredo, 65).
Southampton (4-3-3): Gazzaniga; Chambers, Fonte, Lovren, Shaw; Davis (Gallagher, 75), Schneiderlin, Cork (Wanyama, 80); Lallana, Lambert, Rodriguez (Ward-Prowse, 26).
Referee: Chris Foy.
Man of the match: Silva (Manchester City)
Match rating: 7/10
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