Southampton show fear in complete but inevitable defeat to Man City

CHALLENGING any result at Man City seems almost impossible this season. Saints can only be questioned for their obvious fear of resounding defeat.

Gavin Bazunu impressed on his return to his former side but nothing could be done to stop Joao Cancelo and Phil Foden killing the game in the first half.

The Saints have too often been afraid of making a mistake in the progressive game against the English champions, while Riyad Mahrez and the unstoppable Erling Haaland rounded it 4-0.

The afternoon’s biggest cheers came jokingly for the Saints after a rehearsal of speculative shots from Romain Perraud, but Ralph Hasenhuttl’s ideals were probably not all wrong – they just weren’t put on implemented.

Hasenhuttl’s teams at their best have been characterized by bravery and courage and he showed it yet again by sticking to the 4-2-2-2 pattern that won him success against City last season.

Home and away draws in the Premier League will have been used as inspiration, but it takes more than bravery, courage and inspiration against some teams.

The days leading up to the Etihad Stadium contest were punctuated by various reports about Hasenhuttl’s job security and even the potential successors the club had been targeting.

Haaland, Kevin De Bruyne, Foden, Bernardo Silva and many more lined up to take on the Saints defense from the start – £100million Jack Grealish among those on the bench.

It was Riyad Mahrez whom Bazunu had to deny superbly within 60 seconds, before the Algerian flew off on the volley 10 minutes later to let the Saints go.

Haaland should have scored and had almost the whole stadium standing in expectation when he ran, followed by a universal gasp as his shot went off the post and down the line.

The respite was short-lived. Cancelo finished a labyrinthine run with a feint past James Ward-Prowse in the zone – with Kyle Walker-Peters AWOL – and crossed Bazunu in 20 minutes.

Foden scored the second with a delicious chip from De Bruyne’s pass just after the half-hour mark, after Bazunu saved him moments earlier.

Hasenhuttl’s enduring image of the first half was one of the agony of his own players refusing to be brave. Continually they came back to Bazunu rather than forward and each time the Austrian turned to his bench expressing his frustration.

The Saints came in with 35% of the ball and no shots on goal. Mahrez added the third minutes after the break, finishing off Rodri’s ball from inside the box.

Haaland missed the ball from Foden and De Bruyne’s easy setup and Bazunu then held it off, with the crowd present only really wanting the Norwegian.

They got it. The 22-year-old scored his – incredibly – 15th in 10 league appearances, slipping in from close range with a first strike.

He felt a final bit of catharsis as the game nearly died with anticipation. Haaland had scored and the Saints were buried. A series of changes followed, with Juan Larios set for an Etihad return.

Manchester City: Ederson; Akanji, Dias, Ake, Cancelo (Gomez, 71); Rodri, De Bruyne (Palmer, 71), Silva (Lewis, 77); Mahrez (Alvarez, 71), Foden (Grealish, 58), Haaland.

Unused submarines: Wilson-Esbrand, Laporte, Gundogan, Ortega (g/k).

Saints: Bazunu; Walker-Peters (Larios, 78), Bella-Kotchap, Salisu, Perraud; Diallo, Ward-Prowse, Aribo (Mara, 78), S Armstrong (Djenepo, 65); To Armstrong (Elyounoussi, 65), Adams.

Unused submarines: Lyanco, Caleta-Car, Maitland-Niles, Walcott, McCarthy (g/k).

Reserved: Walker-Peters.

Referee: Andy Madley.

VAR: Lee Mason.

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