Erling Haaland hit another brace, including a spectacular bicycle kick as Manchester City earned a convincing win at Southampton. The Striking Viking, as he’s been dubbed on Twitter, scored either side of a Jack Grealish goal while Julian Alvarez added a fourth as the Blues continued their fine form to keep the pressure on league leaders Arsenal.
With the Gunners facing a trip to Anfield on Sunday afternoon, it was vital that City claimed the three points at the home of relegation-threatened Saints. The memory of City’s inept performance in January at St Marys must have played on the minds of the supporters as the blues continue to track Arsenal. In the end, any fears were unfounded as City romped to a second consecutive 4-1 victory to stay on the heels of the leaders.
With a Champions League first leg tie at home to Bayern Munich on Tuesday, it wouldn’t have been a surprise had manager Pep Guardiola rested a few of his stars. However, that is never the Guardiola way as a very strong City line-up saw Norwegian goal-king Haaland return to the side after missing last weekend’s win over Liverpool.
And, just as he did in October’s match at the Etihad Stadium, the striker had a quiet game until just before the break when he struck to break the deadlock. Before then, City had pressed the Saints throughout the match, barely giving the home side an opportunity to breathe before launching another wave of attacks.
Jack Grealish, who has found his form at just the right time, tormented the Southampton defence throughout the match, while Kevin de Bruyne ran the show from the middle of the park. And it was this duo that teamed up to give Haaland his 29th Premier League goal on a plate on the stroke of half-time. Grealish found the Belgian out on the left and his pinpoint cross was met by the head of the Nordic Meat Shield to put City in front.
It was de Bruyne’s 100th assist for the blues and no less than City deserved for a first-half performance that threatened to blow the Saints away. The blues could have been 1-0 up in the first few minutes of the match and City found acres of space in middle of the field.
But, Southampton are a team that can pose the blues problems, just as they did during last season’s 1-1 draw, and City could have found themselves a goal down before Haaland’s opener. Kamaldeen Sulemana capitalised on a rare City mistake and charged forward with only Nathan Ake between him and the goal. But the City defender, who has been so underrated this season, did enough to slow the charge of Sulemana and applied just enough pressure to force the Saints man into taking a heavy touch, which gave Ederson a chance to intercept.
It was really the only chance Southampton had until their goal in the 72nd minute, but by then, Saints were 3-0 down. Grealish scored the blues second goal in the 58th minute, springing the offside trap to beat Gavin Bazuna at the second attempt, before the England star set up Haaland for his spectacular second.
Released down the left, Grealish left the Southampton defence in two minds as to how to deal with him, which gave the winger time to pick out Haaland at the far post. The Norwegian star adjusted himself to produce an acrobatic finish to send the blues 3-0 and stay hot on the tails of Arsenal.
The Saints pulled a goal back four minutes later, but the blues were in no mood to give the home support any hope. Three minutes later, de Bruyne charged into the box before his run was ended with a foul, and Alvarez, who replaced Haaland, stepped up to coolly dispatch the fourth.
Another comfortable victory for the blues and now it’s over to Arsenal and their Anfield test. Victory for the Mersey reds will give City an opportunity to close the gap to just two points if they win their game in hand. And, with Arsenal still to visit Manchester, City could find themselves finally in the ascendency in the race for the title.
Final Score: Southampton 1-4 Manchester City