Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Raheem Sterling’s latest late goal kept Manchester City well in front at the top of the Premier League with a 2-1 win at home to Southampton on Wednesday.
It had looked as if what became City’s 12th successive league victory would end in a draw after Southampton’s Oriol Romeu cancelled out a goal scored by Kevin De Bruyne early in the second half.
But for the third match in a row Sterling grabbed a late goal — but this was later and arguably better than the others.
In the 96th minute, De Bruyne’s short pass found Sterling, who curled a brilliant shot into the top right-hand corner of the goal from the edge of the area — following similar late winners against Feyenoord and Huddersfield in the past week.
The goal sparked incredible scenes of celebration on the Etihad Stadium pitch, with City manager Pep Guardiola sprinting into the middle of the field and, after the final whistle seconds later, engaging in an angry exchange of words with Southampton’s Nathan Redmond.
Victory left City eight points in front of second-placed Manchester United after 14 matches of the season.
– Lacklustre –
City had responded impressively after a lacklustre first half, one which presumably would have displeased the demanding Guardiola.
Within 80 seconds of the restart, City were ahead from a De Bruyne free-kick, wide on the left, which was so brilliantly struck it appeared to evade all other attempts to get a touch.
City, however, were stunned 15 minutes from time when Fabian Delph failed to deal with Ryan Bertrand’s centre and substitute Sofiane Boufal pulled the ball back for Romeu to convert clinically from 10 yards.
For all their dominance in practically every game so far this season, City could easily have found themselves a goal down to Mauricio Pellegrino’s side in what was, by their standards, a poor first half.
Bertrand’s 14th-minute corner was flicked on at the near post by Maya Yoshida, finding Wesley Hoedt who appeared to have done enough to steer his own header into the City goal, only for the ball to strike the crossbar.
Immediately following that narrow escape, City showed the threat they pose on the counter-attack, breaking upfield at electrifying pace for Sterling to test Fraser Forster with a shot the goalkeeper parried.
The rebound fell kindly for Gabriel Jesus whose first-time effort drew another fine diving block from Forster, who had recovered well.
A dangerous free-kick from Redmond found Shane Long’s head, although City cleared the danger, and the Premier League leaders were gradually beginning to take control of proceedings.
De Bruyne picked out Fernandinho for a shot which Forster, again, did well to keep out but, as the visitors failed to clear, De Bruyne worked his way down the by-line before crossing for Nicolas Otamendi to head over from close range.
In the 25th minute, City came closer still as Ilkay Gundogan’s clever back-heel set up Jesus for a shot which Forster again did brilliantly to keep out, this time with an outstretched leg, although Gundogan should have done better than hit the side-netting with the goal gaping before him.
But City failed to make that pressure count and, as the half wore on, the Saints pressed forward.
Mario Lemina darted into the City area, pushing the ball through the legs of Vincent Kompany, before forcing Ederson into a comfortable save at the foot of his post.
And, within a minute, Virgil van Dijk headed down a left-wing corner, directly to Yoshida whose first-time volley flew high over the goal from only five yards.
After the break, Sergio Aguero headed just over from a free-kick while a long shot from Fernandinho forced Forster into another fine save before Sterling had the final say.
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