Svensson exploits static defending

Manchester City 0 Southampton 1
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The Independent Football

Manchester City can take the memories, a developing side and their huge fan base with them. What they would love to leave behind for the bulldozers to deal with is their unfailing capacity for self-destruction.

Manchester City can take the memories, a developing side and their huge fan base with them. What they would love to leave behind for the bulldozers to deal with is their unfailing capacity for self-destruction.

The club who routinely alternate triumph with shooting themselves in the foot delivered one final anti-climax against Southampton yesterday.

This was no way to mark the end of 80 years' football at Maine Road. Indeed, defeat meant Kevin Keegan's side have lost four of the last seven games at their famous ground. They deserved little better against the Saints despite dominating substantial passages of play and creating the majority of chances, half ones though most of them were.

Southampton had no particular reason for fouling up City's emotional last-day parade, save for professional pride and the knowledge that victory would lift them above their hosts in the table. Gordon Strachan would not admit it but his players were probably surprised to bounce back from their mauling at Arsenal with three points from a game that meant less to them.

On an afternoon for remembering the likes of Lee, Bell, Summerbee and Doherty, the honour of scoring the last goal at the stadium fell to the Southampton defender Michael Svensson. Matt Oakley's curling 34th minute free-kick from the right brought one of those frozen-in-time City moments as a static defence was punished by a powerful free header.

Not only was it goodbye Maine Road, it was farewell also to giants at opposite ends of the pitch. Shaun Goater will have enjoyed the send-off more than Peter Schmeichel. The great Dane was deserted by his defenders and rooted to his line for the match-winner and made an undistinguished grab towards a cross from Wayne Bridge in the second half.

Goater was revved up for one last hurrah at the end of his final City season and was handed the captain's armband. In four successive campaigns before this, he led the club's goal charts. Yesterday, he was served little more than crumbs, although a swish of his right leg to Nicolas Anelka's centre promised more than the miscue received.

Anelka and substitute Robbie Fowler monopolised City's attempts on goal, but Paul Jones was equal to the lot, albeit not stretched to maximum by any.

There was a hesitancy and raggedness to everything Keegan's men did. The manager spoke beforehand of being dissatisfied by eighth place in the table. Now, he has to contemplate a final placing of ninth as these two clubs move in exciting directions; one to the City of Manchester Stadium, the other to the FA Cup final.

Goals: Svensson (34) 0-1.

Manchester City (4-4-2): Schmeichel 6; Dunne 6 (Horlock, 83), Sommeil 6, Distin 6, Jensen 6; Wright-Phillips 7, Barton 5 (Belmadi, 71, 6), Foé 7, Benarbia 6; Goater 6 (Fowler, 63, 6), Anelka 8. Substitutes not used: Nash (gk), Wiekens.

Southampton (4-4-2): Jones 8; Telfer 7, Lundekvam 7, M Svensson 7, Bridge 7; Baird 6, Oakley 6, A Svensson 6 (Tessem, 65, 6), Prutton 5 (Higginbotham, 80); Ormerod 6 (Fernandes, 90), Beattie 7. Substitutes not used: Williams, Blayney (gk).

Referee: M Dean (Wirral) 6.

Bookings: Manchester City: Barton, Dunne, Distin. Southampton: Prutton, Baird, Beattie, Ormerod.

Man of the match: Jones.

Attendance: 34,957.

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