Manchester City cruised past Premier League rivals Southampton to claim their place in the quarter final of the League Cup for the third year in succession. An opening goal by Nicolas Otamendi was followed by two by Sergio Aguero as City strolled past the Saints without barely reaching top gear.
The blues made nine changes from the team that beat Aston Villa at the weekend, giving starts to Phil Foden, Eric Garcia and Tommy Doyle - grandson of City legend Mike Doyle – while both Aguero and Gabriel Jesus made a rare start together.
Southampton went into the match on the back of a 9-0 home trouncing by Leicester City four days ago, and manager Pep Guardiola said yesterday that he expected a reaction from the Saints, who held out until the 20th minute when Otamendi headed the blues in front. Up to that point, City had been kept at bay, despite dominating possession. Riyad Mahrez tried his luck from outside the area, but Saints keeper Alex McCarthy was equal to it.
But he could do nothing to prevent Otamendi from giving the blues the lead. The visitors were slow to react when City took a short corner and the Argentine defender headed home Bernardo Silva’s cross from close range.
The blues continued to press, with the midfield trio of Foden, Silva and Doyle dominating the visitors, and a second goal before the break was almost inevitable and it was Aguero who got it. Kyle Walker’s run and cross was met by the unmarked striker, who flicked the ball home with ease to give City a two-goal cushion at half time.
Southampton improved after the break, and put together a decent passing move, their first of the night, but were punished after losing possession as City went down the other end and made the game safe. Mahrez’s shot took a deflection but found it’s way to Aguero, who fired home to make it 3-0.
The travelling Saints fans had something to cheer when they registered their first shot on target in the 65th minute, Claudio Bravo keeping out an effort from Sofiane Boufal. Ten minutes later, Saints grabbed a consolation as City’s weakness at set pieces raised its head again. James Ward-Prowse’s corner was met by the head of Jack Stephen, who headed home. Southampton sensed they could get another and began to press the blues, but City were content to pass their way out of trouble and wait to hit the visitors on the counter-attack.
But the blues suffered yet another injury concern as Angelino went down clutching his hamstring and was replaced by John Stones with 11 minutes remaining.
City will find out their quarter final opponents on Thursday, but the match was a good run out for the youngsters, in particular Foden, who was outstanding in the centre.
Southampton return to Manchester on Saturday to face the blues again, where no doubt players like de Bruyne, Sterling et al will be in contention for a return to the first team.
Final Score: Manchester City 3-1 Southampton