Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Manchester City were held to a frustrating 0-0 draw by Southampton as the fans who packed the Etihad Stadium following Pep Guardiola’s plea endured a lacklustre display on Saturday.
It might have been even worse for Guardiola’s side after referee Jon Moss controversially overturned decisions to award Southampton a penalty and send City defender Kyle Walker off in the second half.
City had scored 16 goals in their last three home games, but the champions’ usually potent attack was subdued by Southampton’s well-drilled defence.
Raheem Sterling thought he had snatched victory for City with a last-gasp strike but the flag was raised for offside and VAR confirmed the decision.
The result left City three points behind leaders Liverpool, with Manchester United and Chelsea able to go above them if they avoid defeat on Sunday.
At least Guardiola was greeted warmly by a near-capacity crowd following his midweek spat with supporters.
Guardiola had irritated a section of City’s fanbase by asking for more support after just 38,062 turned out at the Etihad for Wednesday’s 6-3 win over Leipzig in the Champions League.
That low number was partly due to the almost complete lack of Leipzig fans and the attendance was much closer to the Etihad’s 55,000-capacity for Southampton’s visit.
Fans created a vibrant atmosphere after Guardiola’s rallying cry, chanting the Spaniard’s name and roaring their team on, even if the players didn’t rise to the occasion for once.
Clear-cut opportunities were at a premium as City failed to muster a shot on target in the first half.
They eventually began to assert a measure of control and Sterling played Ilkay Gundogan in on goal, but Saints keeper Alex McCarthy was quick to deal with the danger.
Sterling, making his first league start since the opening day of the season, and Gabriel Jesus combined well at times.
Southampton stepped up the tempo after the restart with Che Adams dragging an effort across goal.
Controversy then erupted when Southampton were awarded a penalty after Walker appeared to bundle into the back of Adam Armstrong.
Moss had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and was quick to show the red card to Walker.
But the referee was invited to review the whole incident again on the monitor following a VAR check.
Much to the relief of City, he decided to cancel the penalty and overturn the sending off.
Guardiola responded to the let-off by introducing Kevin De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden off the bench in quick succession.
Still Southampton continued to press with Adams curling his shot wide.
City thought they had found a way through when Sterling smashed home the rebound after McCarthy kept out Foden’s header.
Moss ruled out the effort for offside and a tense few moments followed before VAR confirmed the decision.
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