Southampton showed massive improvement against Manchester City this weekend, narrowly losing 2-1 to Pep Guardiola’s men after initially taking the lead in the first-half.
Although the end result was the same – a defeat – it was a stark contrast to what had gone before just a week earlier when the Saints were thrashed 9-0 by Leicester at St. Mary’s.
During the midweek visit in the EFL Cup, there were signs of progression (as noted by Adam Blackmore) for Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side, especially in the second-half when the south coast outfit managed to nick a goal and register a few attempts at the City end.
Southampton clearly carried that confidence with them on Saturday, and even took the lead through James Ward-Prowse inside 13 minutes after City ‘keeper Ederson had spilt a shot right into the England midfielder’s path.
The match remained hanging in the balance, narrowly in the visitors’ favour until the 70th minute, when serial goalscorer Sergio Aguero turned home a fantastic driven cross from right-back Kyle Walker.
Walker then turned from provider to goalscorer four minutes before the end, finding the net with an unorthodox shot from close range, ensuring that City came away from the contest with all the spoils, but only just.
Southampton players can now hold their heads up high following a week in which they have been firmly pointed at the ground; despite losing Saturday’s clash, they showed fantastic character to go toe-to-toe with the reigning Premier League champions, when it would have been extremely easy to complete capitulate against them.
James Ward-Prowse’s goal was the talking point for the visitors but his overall performance was fantastic, registering an overall rating of 8.18/10 from WhoScored for his efforts at the Etihad.
However, it was another player who subtly caught the eye on Saturday – defender Jannik Vestergaard. The towering centre-half has come in for some criticism since joining the club for some questionable displays in the heart of the Saints’ back-line – notably the opening day defeat against Burnley – but was magnificent for his team against Manchester City.
The Denmark international registered an overall rating of 7.55/10 from WhoScored – more than any other Southampton player (bar Ward-Prowse). Vestergaard made a total of 18 clearances, 2 tackles, 2 blocked shots, alongside registering a pass completion rate of 80%.
Southampton’s defence have been massively under the spotlight this season, more so in the previous week after the humiliating 9-0 drubbing by Leicester, but on Saturday they showed that they are capable of much better.
Vestergaard proved on a personal note than he is more than adept to cutting it in the Premier League; he must now carry that into next week’s crunch game against fellow strugglers Everton.
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