Monday 16 September 2019

Aguero's injury setback takes shine off City win

Manchester City 3 Southampton 1

Aleksandar Kolarov scores Manchester City’s third goal at the Etihad Stadium yesterday
Aleksandar Kolarov scores Manchester City’s third goal at the Etihad Stadium yesterday
Southampton's Shane Long looks dejected

Mark Ogden

Manuel Pellegrini revealed that Sergio Aguero would be assessed today by Manchester City's medical staff after the forward endured a new injury setback during the victory against Southampton. Aguero, who only returned to action against Liverpool last week after a seven-week lay-off because of a hamstring injury, was replaced by Wilfried Bony on 64 minutes after his right ankle buckled on landing following an aerial challenge in the Southampton penalty area.

Aguero was able to limp off the pitch and down the tunnel, but was clearly in discomfort and his condition will have taken the shine off a victory earned with goals from Kevin De Bruyne, Fabian Delph and Aleksandar Kolarov. Although Aguero was pictured clutching his ankle, Pellegrini, the City manager, suggested that the problem was the result of a kick on the heel before admitting that the player's fitness would be tested today.

"Aguero came off as a precaution," Pellegrini said. "He has a kick in his heel, but nothing important. We will see how it is tomorrow."

City's unpredictability this season has become big concern for Pellegrini, with the highs of rampant victories against Chelsea and Newcastle in spectacular contrast to hammerings at the hands of Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur. There have been back-to-back wins in the Champions League against Sevilla, but double defeats against Juventus. Southampton arrived at the Etihad Stadium unbeaten away from home in the Premier League this season and perhaps sensing the opportunity to take advantage of the home side's Jekyll and Hyde characteristics.

As the rain poured down, Southampton were forced to repel wave after wave of attacks before De Bruyne scored after nine minutes. Moments earlier, goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg had denied Kolarov by grasping his free-kick, which bounced off the bar, before Fernandinho and Nicolas Otamendi could bury the rebound. Stekelenburg was helpless to prevent De Bruyne scoring, however, with a mistake by full-back Maya Yoshida gifting Raheem Sterling a free run into the penalty area. Sterling timed his pass to De Bruyne perfectly, with the Belgian stroking home from six yards after Ryan Bertrand had failed to cut out the cross.

Delph and Otamendi quickly went close to doubling City's lead before the home side were denied a penalty following a Steven Davis handball. Fernandinho's header from De Bruyne's corner was destined for the far corner until Davis's outstretched left arm nudged the ball away from goal. But City's sense of injustice evaporated seconds later when Delph scored from the resulting corner with a shot that beat Stekelenburg courtesy of a deflection.

"You cannot make the kind of mistakes we did in the first 20 minutes," said Southampton manager Ronald Koeman. "If you do those kind of mistake against City, they can punish you. Maybe we were lucky to be only 2-0 after 20 minutes because we lost every ball."

Southampton were struggling to gain a foothold without suspended forward Graziano Pelle. And aside from a Virgil Van Dijk strike which rattled the crossbar after 22 minutes, Southampton failed to trouble goalkeeper Willy Caballero until Shane Long reduced the arrears with a header four minutes into the second half. Although Sadio Mane's cross from the right was well delivered, City should have cleared the danger, with centre-half Martin Demichelis offering little resistance as Long outjumped him at the far post to score from close range.

With Dusan Tadic having been introduced in place of Oriol Romeu at the interval, Southampton became more adventurous and went close to equalising after 62 minutes.

Caballero initially stood up well to keep out Tadic's effort, and with the loose ball dropping to Long, the Argentinian goalkeeper blocked the Irishman's effort. With Aguero sustaining his injury moments later, Southampton's momentum looked to have been given a further injection. But just as the home supporters' frustrations threatened to boil over, Kolarov restored City's two-goal advantage.

The Serbian full-back was left unmarked at the far post by the Saints defence and had time to control De Bruyne's cross before guiding a left-foot shot low into the far corner.

"It was important to get three points against a team who were unbeaten away," Pellegrini said. "We were a little nervous until the third goal, but I'm happy with the performance and the result."


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