Manchester City vs Southampton: Raheem Sterling runs the show as City pull away from the pack

Manchester City 6-1 Southampton: Sterling scored twice and played a part in three other goals as Pep Guardiola’s side finally broke clear at the top of the table

Mark Critchley
Etihad Stadium
Sunday 04 November 2018 18:17
Raheem Sterling punches the air after scoring his second goal for Manchester City
Raheem Sterling punches the air after scoring his second goal for Manchester City

After being matched stride-for-stride by pretenders to their throne, Manchester City finally move clear.

The defending champions capitalised on Liverpool dropping points at the Emirates with an emphatic 6-1 win over Southampton. A Raheem Sterling brace, strikes from Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Leroy Sané and an own goal by Wesley Hoedt put Pep Guardiola's two points ahead of their nearest challengers.

City coasted to victory over Mark Hughes' sorry visitors, just as they will coast to victories over plenty of middling opponents here this season, playing sublime football all the while.

Even without their outstanding player Kevin De Bruyne, sidelined with yet another knee ligament injury, City were simply a class above Southampton. Sterling's display was of particular note. The winger had hand in all but one of the six goals, setting three up as well as scoring two.

It was the sheer ease of the victory that should worry City's chalengers. Three points against members of the 'bottom 14' at the Etihad is almost now a given. City's challengers thus cannot afford a single slip up, while the champions themselves set a pace that is near impossible to match.

Ever the perfectionist, Guardiola used his pre-match programme notes to caution his players against wastefulness in front of goal after several scoring opportunities went begging in last Monday's win at Tottenham Hotspur. "In big, important contests, if we are not clinical then - sooner or later - we are not going to win," he warned.

The message appeared to hit home. Guardiola could have no complaints with his side's uncompromising start, with City establishing a three-goal lead in the opening 18 minutes, even if it was a Southampton player that converted the first.

After James Ward-Prowse had tripped over his own feet in midfield, Sané drilled a low cross which Hoedt emphatically, if accidentally, put into the roof of his own net. The game was only six minutes old and another six minutes later, it was two.

Aguero doubled City's lead, dispatching at point-blank range after Sterling's dance through the Southampton defence and cut-back from the byline. It was Aguero's 150th Premier League goal in his 217th appearance, with only Alan Shearer reaching that milestone faster.

The third, struck by captain Silva on the half-volley, suggested that Hughes was in for another long afternoon at the Etihad. The former City manager's last visit had ended in a 7-2 defeat for his Stoke City.

David Silva celebrates after scoring Manchester City's third goal

Like on that day in October last year though, Hughes' side would respond. When coming out to challenge Danny Ings, Ederson failed to take the ball, then failed to dive the right way when Ings converted the penalty low to the goalkeeper's left.

It was Southampton's first Premier League goal in 49 days, coming against the top-flight's meanest defence. It was also Southampton's only real moment of first-half resistance. City were otherwise dominant, sometimes laughably so.

At one point, Sané, Sterling, Aguero and Silva worked the ball between themselves over and over again inside the penalty area, callously turning and nutmegging defenders, like a cat toying with a dying mouse.

Raheem Sterling scores his first goal and Manchester City's fourth

The three-goal lead would eventually be re-established on the cusp of half time. Aguero, showing the endeavour and selflessness he has added to his all-round game, brilliantly robbed Cedric Soares at the byline and squared, setting up a simple finish and deserved goal for the excellent Sterling.

After such a dominant first-half display, City showed signs of complacency when the two sides re-emerged. Southampton tested Ederson, who denied Ings after spilling a Ward-Prowse attempt. Ings then saw a close-range header parried away on the goal-line.

Leroy Sane sealed the victory with Manchester City's sixth goal

There would be no sustained fightback though. City gradually reasserted themselves and, shortly after Sané had cracked a shot against the woodwork, Sterling found the fifth, firing past goalkeeper Alex McCarthy at an angle after Aguero's through ball.

The sixth came late and again Sterling had a hand in it, teeing up Sané after a slick counter, with the winger's strike arcing out of McCarthy's reach. The rout was complete and a gap at the top of the table established.

It is just a two-point lead in early November but, with City in this majestic form, some might already call it unassailable.

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