Sunday 24 September 2017

City still not over travel sickness

Southampton 1 Manchester City 1

Southampton's Jose Fonte (left) is unable to stop a shot from Manchester City's Sergio Aguero
Southampton's Jose Fonte (left) is unable to stop a shot from Manchester City's Sergio Aguero

Paul Doyle

Manchester City are not fully over their away woes and Southampton are more resilient than imagined – those are the two take-aways from a match that City seemed on course to win when Sergio Aguero scored in the 10th minute but from which they were ultimately relieved to escape with a draw, as Dani Osvaldo struck a superb equaliser.

City started as if intent on proving two theories: that they had resolved the riddle of their poor away form; and that Southampton had reached the limit of their resources, with injuries having halted their rousing early season form. With full-back Nathaniel Clyne and goalkeeper Artur Boruc among several absentees, Southampton had reason to fear the arrival of the Premier League's leading scorers and the visitors did threaten to overwhelm them with Aguero and Alvaro Negredo buzzing like wasps refusing to let picnic-makers settle.

Negredo could have opened the scoring in the fifth minute but spurned the chance with an uncharacteristically hefty touch. Five minutes later there was no reprieve for Saints. With injuries forcing Southampton to make four changes from their mid-week match against Aston Villa, Samir Nasri was afforded more time in an attacking position than opponents normally enjoy at St Mary's and he made the most of it, waiting for Alexander Kolarov to provide an overlap before knocking the ball into the Serb's path.

Kolarov's low cross was allowed to travel through four Southampton players before arriving at the worst possible destination – the feet of Aguero. The Argentinian striker duly swept it into the net from 10 yards, as his compatriot in the Southampton goal, Paulo Gazzaniga, barely budged.

Southampton seemed on course for a fourth straight defeat. But fatalism is not an ailment from which this ambitious young side suffers and they fought back. Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana were especially impressive, the English pair showing a level of energy and imagination they would be useful companions for Roy Hodgson in the jungle next summer.

Enterprising runs by Lallana and then Shaw breathed new confidence into the home side after the goal, though City, as against West Browmich Albion in mid-week, were perhaps guilty of easing off too early in the belief the game was already in their grasp.

James Ward-Prowse had a 25-yard freekick deflected over before Jack Cork, making his first Premier League start of the season, brought a save from Costel Pantilimon in the 28th minute.

Southampton almost equalised when Calum Chambers sent a diving header wide from close range after a flowing move by the hosts.

Vincent Kompany has helped repair City's defence since his return from injury but he was made to look rickety just before the break. Osvaldo twisted and turned past him before equalising with a sumptuous lob over Pantilimon from the left-hand corner of the box. Until that point the Italian striker had done little to justify his inclusion in the starting line-up ahead of Rickie Lambert.

Observer.

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