Late turnaround keeps Man City on Liverpool’s tails
Kyle Walker volleyed home a dramatic 87th minute winner as Manchester City warmed up for next week’s visit to Premier League leaders Liverpool by crucially coming from a goal down to beat Southampton 2-1 on Saturday.
Barely a week after conceding nine goals against Leicester, Southampton led for 70 minutes thanks to a shock first half goal from James Ward-Prowse.
But Sergio Aguero equalised for Pep Guardiola’s side before right-back Walker became the unlikely goalscoring hero in the closing minutes.
Angelino, making his first league start for City, unleashed a dangerous cross which keeper Alex McCarthy palmed unconvincingly away from goal.
But the ball sat up kindly for Walker who slid in to meet it with a volley which flew into the open net from eight yards.
It capped an eventful game in which City enjoyed near total domination of the first half but, crucially and unexpectedly, fell behind to Southampton’s first real attack of the game on 12 minutes.
Danny Ings’ through ball found Nathan Redmond who, in turn, picked out Stuart Armstrong to unleash a powerful shot from the edge of the City area.
It should have been nothing more than a routine save for Ederson but the Brazilian fumbled the ball, allowing the alert Ward-Prowse to respond first and hook the ball past the stranded keeper.
It was a goal that stunned the entire stadium, including Guardiola, who spent much of the first half frantically gesturing to his players.
City’s attacking play was uncharacteristically sloppy and devoid of imagination against a defence that was easily beaten 3-1 at this same stadium in the League Cup on Tuesday.
Saints’ much-maligned defence, the worst in the Premier League with 25 goals conceded and without a clean sheet in this fixture with City for 15 years, performed with bravery and discipline in blocking every City first half attack.
The only time that McCarthy’s goal looked under serious pressure came from Ilkay Gundogan’s 39th minute cross which saw John Stones beat the keeper to the ball and head over.
Guardiola cut an increasingly animated figure until, in the final minute of the first half, he ordered substitute Gabriel Jesus to strip, leaving the Brazilian striker on the field to warm-up when the whistle blew soon after.
Jesus came on for David Silva when the second half commenced although there was little immediate change in the pattern of the game.
Aguero finally found himself unmarked, only to head Bernardo Silva’s cross over the bar from six yards.
But the visitors were finally beginning to fold under the pressure and 20 minutes from time Kevin De Bruyne’s pass sent Walker to the by-line and his cross found an unmarked Aguero to sweep home the equaliser from eight yards.
City, inevitably, applied more pressure in the search for an equaliser with Raheem Sterling’s skilful run setting up a good chance for Bernardo, who was denied by McCarthy’s save, while De Bruyne curled a shot just wide from an indirect free-kick.
After finally edging ahead, Jesus missed a glorious chance to score City’s third when he was denied by McCarthy.
But City’s fightback at least made sure they did not lose any more ground on Liverpool, who also produced a late comeback to win 2-1 at Aston Villa, with six points separating the top two ahead of their showdown at Anfield next weekend.
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