Manchester City 3-1 Southampton

City roared back to form – and to the top of the Premier League – after a thrilling 3-1 win over Southampton.

Early goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Fabian Delph put the Blues in complete control in the first period and though Saints striker Shane Long halved the deficit just after the break, Aleks Kolarov restored City’s two-goal advantage to clinch three welcome points.

After defeats to Liverpool and Juventus, City were keen to make an early impression against Ronald Koeman’s side.

Southampton arrived at the Etihad still unbeaten on the road in the Premier League this season and looking to further dent the Blues’ confidence, but it was clear from the kick-off that the hosts were determined to get their title challenge back on track.

City needed a bright opening to lift the downbeat mood of the past week and delivered exactly that in the first 20 minutes which saw the visitors blown away by some blistering football with the Blues opening up a richly deserved two-goal lead in the process.

The first arrived with only nine minutes on the clock as Raheem Sterling dispossessed Maya Yoshida on the right flank and powered into the box where he picked out the run of De Bruyne who made no mistake from close range.

Then the impressive Delph put Sergio Aguero clear in the box but the keeper raced off his line to deny the Argentine doubling the lead.

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With 18 minutes played City could- and should – have had a penalty when Fernandinho’s header was diverted around the post by the upper arm of Steven Davis on the line – referee Roger East and his assistant somehow missed it and the Saints remained level at least in the number of players on the pitch.

However, justice was done a few minutes later as the Blues grabbed the second goal their dominance merited as De Bruyne’s drilled low corner found its way to Delph and his low shot deflected past Stekelenburg and into the net.

At that stage, it just seemed a question of how many City would score with Southampton rocking and unable to stem the sky blue tide, but when a snapshot from Virgil van Dijk smacked the woodwork on 22 minutes during a rare foray forward from the visitors, it was a timely reminder that the job wasn’t quite yet.

Indeed, the Saints gradually played their way back into the game as the half progressed, with Willy Caballero making a couple of decent saves ensuring City reached the break without conceding.

Southampton did reduce the arrears just four minutes after the restart, but again the referee angered the home crowd after he allowed a passage of play to continue before awarding Saints a free-kick for an earlier infringement.

From the set-piece, Tadic found Sadio Mane who whipped in a cross that was powered home by Long, much to the chagrin of the majority of the 54,102 crowd.

The Saints pressed for an equaliser and Caballero was again called upon a couple of times but an equaliser would have been harsh on City given their overall superiority.

A third goal was needed to calm the nerves of an increasingly edgy home crowd, and finally, it arrived on 69 minutes – shortly after Aguero had limped off with a knock – with a terrific team goal, started by the influential De Bruyne.

Sterling carried the ball forward to the edge of the box before finding substitute Wilfried Bony – his clever back-heel found De Bruyne who spotted Kolarov in yards of space and the Serbian drilled an angled shot home to the relief of all on and off the pitch.

City had a couple of chances to add to the score but the loudest cheer of the afternoon was reserved for the returning David Silva whose appearance as a 75th-minute sub resulted in a standing ovation from the home supporters.

All in all, a satisfying game and a return to form by the Blues who will now look forward to Tuesday’s Capital One Cup quarter-final with Hull with renewed confidence.

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