Southampton 1 – 4 Manchester City. Erling Haaland scored twice, including a superb bicycle kick, as Manchester City reduced the gap to Premier League leaders Arsenal to five points with a comfortable victory at relegation-threatened Southampton.
Haaland, absent from City’s previous league win over Liverpool with a groin injury, displayed his athleticism to meet Jack Grealish’s cross for City’s third and take his remarkable league tally this season to 30 goals in 27 games.
It was also his 44th goal in all competitions for City this season – equalling the most by a Premier League player in a single campaign.
Kevin de Bruyne registered his 100th Premier League assist as he set up Haaland to give dominant City a half-time lead at St Mary’s, before Grealish continued his impressive post-World Cup form as he beat Gavin Bazunu at the second time of asking.
Sekou Mara emerged from the Saints bench to reduce the deficit following Haaland’s acrobatic second, but just 75 seconds later City were awarded a penalty for a foul on De Bruyne which Julian Alvarez calmly converted.
It completed an eighth consecutive win in all competitions for Pep Guardiola’s side, who maintained the pressure on Arsenal before the Gunners face Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday (16:30 BST).
Southampton remain four points adrift of safety at the bottom of the table and time is running out for Ruben Selles and his players to rescue their situation.
A lacklustre City got what they deserved in the previous meeting between the clubs, when they suffered a shock Carabao Cup quarter-final loss in January.
While Guardiola’s team got what they deserved on the south coast that day, they would not make the same mistake as they proceeded to dismantle a Saints side devoid of confidence.
Although Haaland’s absence did not prove disruptive in the 4-1 win over former title rivals Liverpool, the Norway forward made sure his presence was felt on Saturday evening.
Initially kept quiet by the Saints defence, a typically accurate cross from De Bruyne – just the fifth player to reach a century of Premier League assists – provided Haaland the opportunity he craved as he rose between two defenders to break the deadlock.
But it was his second that will steal the headlines. With his back to Bazunu, the prolific 22-year-old guided the ball back across goal with his outstretched left leg to make it a remarkable 44 goals in 38 games in all competitions since joining last summer.
Grealish, now oozing confidence, has also hit his best form in a City shirt at a timely moment with the England international directly involved in 10 goals in 15 league games since the World Cup break.
City have typically finished their campaigns in scintillating form to win four of the past five Premier League titles and, once again, they appear to be hitting top gear as they attempt to chase down Arsenal.
They extended their best winning run in the league this season to five matches, with the latest ensuring Guardiola’s side go into the home first leg of their Champions League quarter-final against German champions Bayern Munich on Tuesday full of confidence.
In contrast to City’s run, Southampton are now five games without victory, with this loss following defeat in a key relegation clash at West Ham.
Unable to produce another shock against City, their situation is beginning to look dire with eight games remaining.
Selles, the club’s third manager this season, has been unable to build on a promising start to his tenure which brought two wins in his first three league games after replacing the sacked Nathan Jones.
If they are to survive, statistics suggest it will fall to captain and top scorer James Ward-Prowse to inspire a revival. However, club-record signing Kamaldeen Sulemana hinted against City he may have a part to play.
Amid a dominant start by the visitors, which had seen Bazunu produce a fine save to deny Grealish inside five minutes, the lively Sulemana displayed his pace on the counter-attack but failed to test Ederson following a poor touch under pressure from Nathan Ake.
Mara’s consolation arrived too late to inspire a meaningful fightback, with Saints equalling their record of 19 defeats in one Premier League season.
source – BBC