Manchester City overcame the sending-off of Eliaquim Mangala to ease to a 3-0 win at St Mary's Stadium as the champions replaced Southampton in second place in the Barclays Premier League.
Southampton went into Sunday's game confident after a stunning start to the season, but were given a reality check in a comprehensive performance from Manuel Pellegrini's side. Yaya Toure, Frank Lampard and Gael Clichy got on the scoresheet for the visitors, who stepped up their performance after going in at 0-0 at the break.
Ronald Koeman's team, who had won their last five home top-flight games while conceding just one goal, were given hope when Mangala was sent off for a second bookable offence at 1-0 down with 16 minutes left. But it mattered little as City added late goals courtesy of Lampard and Clichy to move six points behind leaders Chelsea.
Sergio Aguero had claims for a penalty early on denied when he went down under Jose Fonte’s challenge and was booked by referee Mike Jones for simulation.
Southampton almost caught City on the counter in the 21st minute but an unmarked Graziano Pelle failed to get a significant touch on Morgan Schneiderlin's chip over the top, before Joe Hart saved well on the rebound from Steven Davis, who was making his return from a hamstring injury.
A sweeping City move ended with Stevan Jovetic, one of four changes from the midweek win over Bayern Munich, squeezing a shot past Fraser Forster shortly before the break, but Toby Alderweireld did well to get back and clear off the line.
Koeman was forced into a change at half-time, with Maya Yoshida replacing Schneiderlin, who had a thigh injury, but the home side began the second period on the front foot, with long-range strikes from Alderweireld and Dusan Tadic not far away.
However, City went in front six minutes after the restart when Toure was teed up by Aguero on the edge of the area, and his powerful low shot took a slight deflection off Alderweireld and ended up in the bottom corner.
Koeman attempted to inject more of an attacking threat as Shane Long came on for Sadio Mane in the 67th minute, but it was City who almost struck again soon after when captain Vincent Kompany, who was forced off late on with an injury, flicked on a corner and Aguero fired over from close range on the volley.
Long's pace came into play soon after as he was brought down by Mangala while racing towards Hart's goal after Toure had been caught in possession. The Frenchman received a second yellow to hand Southampton a chance to get back into the match.
But as the hosts chased the game, Aguero was involved in a fine City break before substitute Lampard raced onto James Milner's pass and fired past Forster from 20 yards. It was Lampard’s 174th goal in the Barclays Premier League, one behind Thierry Henry, who is fourth in the list of all-time goalscorers.
The Southampton goalkeeper did well to deny Aguero as he raced clean through on another counter, but the forward turned provider once more in the closing stages to set up Clichy for a third, the left-back’s first goal for the club.
Southampton manager Ronald Koeman: "I'm disappointed because in the second half the beginning was a bit better than the start of the game. You know that if you do some mistakes you are punished for that. It was not good enough today and we have to realise that. The difference was the quality.
"We know in three days we have to play Arsenal away. There is no time to be disappointed and that you have to learn about the mistakes. If you like to beat these big teams you have to play better. That is what I have said to the players."
Man City manager Manuel Pellegrini: "I am very pleased. We beat a very good team. We played a very good game it was important to have a clean sheet again, they had just one chance in the 90 minutes and that is important for the trust in our team, and to score three goals against the best defence is also very important.
"It was important to open the game, it was close in the first 45 minutes and we continued working as a team in defence and attack until we scored.
"We can complain about a lot of things from this team this year. But the only thing we cannot complain about in the squad is the spirit, the personality, the character and the ambition to continue winning. We have to play 25 games more. It is a lot of points and nobody knows what will happen in the future. In football in one week you can change your position.
"Chelsea are playing very well and we will see what will happen. We must try to concentrate just on [Wednesday's game against] Sunderland."
|13 Dec 2014||v Burnley (A)|
|03 Dec 2014||v Arsenal (A)|
|08 Dec 2014||v Man Utd (H)|
|20 Dec 2014||v Everton (H)|
|26 Dec 2014||v Crystal Palace (A)|
|28 Dec 2014||v Chelsea (H)|