London - Sergio Aguero created two goals as champions Manchester City
leapfrogged Southampton into second place in the Premier League table
with a steely 3-0 victory at St Mary's on Sunday.
Yaya Toure drilled home Aguero's pass in the 51st minute and although
City centre-back Eliaquim Mangala was then sent off, late goals by
substitute Frank Lampard and Gael Clichy secured victory for the
Mangala was shown a second yellow card in the 74th minute after
barging over Shane Long, but Lampard and Clichy's strikes safeguarded an
impressive win that took City to within six points of leaders Chelsea.
Following previous wins over Swansea City and Bayern Munich, Manuel
Pellegrini's appear to have rediscovered some self-belief after a run of
only one win in six games that began in mid-October.
Victory was not completely without complications, however, as a late
injury to Vincent Kompany obliged them to see out the game with nine
It was a first home defeat since April for Southampton, who have
embarked upon a testing sequence of fixtures that continues with
Arsenal's visit on Wednesday before they host Manchester United a week
Aguero had been likened to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo by both
his coach and his team-mates after his match-winning hat-trick against
Bayern in mid-week, and he was quickly in the thick of the action on his
100th league appearance for City.
In the ninth minute, he stole into the box and was sent flying by a
sliding challenge from Jose Fonte, but although it appeared a clear
penalty, referee Mike Jones booked the incredulous Argentine for diving.
City shaded the early exchanges, with Toure curling a shot straight
at Fraser Forster from outside the box, but the visitors' goal was
fortunate to emerge unscathed mid-way through the first half.
From a Morgan Schneiderlin cross, Graziano Pelle was thwarted by City
goalkeeper Joe Hart, who then got down well to parry Steven Davis's
follow-up, and when Dusan Tadic closed in for the second rebound,
It was then Southampton's turn to survive a goal-mouth scare, with
Toby Alderweireld blocking on the goal-line after Forster had taken the
sting out of a shot from the recalled Stevan Jovetic.
But City continued to look vulnerable to the in-swinging cross at the
other end, and after Pelle glanced wide from Davis's left-wing corner,
Kompany was grateful to see an anxious back-header settle in Hart's
Schneiderlin had to go off with a thigh injury at half-time, with
centre-back Maya Yoshida coming on in his place and Alderweireld moving
forward into midfield.
Within seconds of the restart, the Dutchman drifted a shot wide from
30 yards, while moments later Tadic sent Hart scrambling across goal
with a fierce, low strike that narrowly evaded the left-hand post.
But it was City who broke the deadlock. Aguero gathered a through
ball from Fernandinho and tiptoed into the box from the left before
teeing up Toure, who crashed a 20-yard shot into the bottom-left corner
with the aid of a slight deflection.
City continued to press, Aguero prodding over from Kompany's flick-on
and Jesus Navas arrowing just wide after Victor Wanyama lost the ball,
and Mangala's dismissal did not disturb their momentum.
James Milner and Lampard were primarily sent on to stiffen City's
midfield, but they combined for the second goal in the 80th minute.
Milner found Lampard lurking on the edge of the box and the former Chelsea man thrashed a low shot past a motionless Forster.
An unlikely figure made the game safe in the 88th minute, with Clichy
haring downfield to apply an assured finishing touch to Aguero's
delicate outside-of-the-foot pass.