City bounce back in style
City boss needs this win badly as Guardiola rumours swirl
MAN CITY 3
(Kevin de Bruyne 9, Fabian Delph 21, Aleksandar Kolarov 70)
(Shane Long 50)
Manchester City were teetering towards the brink of a crisis.
Back-to-back defeats by Liverpool and Juventus had manager Manuel Pellegrini on the ropes, as the team surrendered their pole positions in the English Premier League and Champions League group standings.
But, last night, City showed why it will take more than a couple of losses to derail their Premiership title charge.
With an arrogant display of stylish, attacking football, they blitzed Southampton at the Etihad Stadium to claim a 3-1 victory.
Pellegrini can finally breathe a little easier after three joyless weeks.
He needed the respite.
The rumours linking Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola to City was gathering momentum during those three matches (also 0-0 draw with Aston Villa) without a win.
Such speculation comes with the job, he said, just before this game.
The Chilean will be heartened by this performance.
The Saints got sucked into the Manchester vortex from the first whistle.
Raheem Sterling in the opening moments flashed a warning shot which Southampton goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg just about managed to gather.
City instantly smelt blood. So, they did away with the stalking and went straight for the throat.
Sterling and Kevin de Bruyne were unstoppable on the flanks.
Sergio Aguero looked in the mood and he was supported by a Yaya Toure on song.
Under pressure, Southampton's defence looked as sturdy as a wafer stick.
Their confidence vanished as swiftly as the rain disappeared into the wet, slippery turf.
Right back Maya Yoshida was the first to crack.
As Sterling closed down on him, the Japanese twisted himself into a knot, and the City attacker raced away with the ball.
All that was left for de Bruyne to do was to stab Sterling's excellent low cross to give City a 1-0 lead in the ninth minute.
Pellegrini wouldn't allow the tempo to slow down, so the hosts continued to rob Southampton of possession in all the danger areas.
A second goal appeared a matter of time.
Fabian Delph, making his first Premiership start for City, would claim it, after his well-struck shot went in off a deflection in the 21st minute.
Southampton went into break 2-0 down, morale shattered and will seemingly broken.
But Ronaldo Koeman had one more ace up his sleeve - Dusan Tadic.
His introduction triggered a brief revival for the visitors, as Tadic started to orchestrate the Southampton attacks with the flair and creativity that they were sorely lacking.
Five minutes after the break, they got themselves back into the game.
Shane Long, in a crowded penalty area, rose highest to head the ball home from a delicious cross by Sadio Mane to pull the scoreline back to 2-1.
But City wouldn't be rattled.
In the 70th minute, fullback Aleksandar Kolarov gave a shooting demonstration his left foot, one of the most lethal in the Premiership. The goal killed off all hopes of a Saints comeback.
With the victory, City's three-game winless spell came to an end.
Pellegrini knew what he was in for the moment he stepped through the Etihad Stadium gates in the summer of 2013.
At City, patience is a luxury. He has just averted a crisis.
But the uncertainty surrounding his future won't go away just yet.
Going by City's history, it won't, until he wins the whole lot.
As he said, this comes with the job.
City manager shrugs off pep talk
Manuel Pellegrini has shrugged off the latest round of speculation linking Pep Guardiola with his job at Manchester City.
The City manager (above) says he has learnt to live with suggestions from outside the club that he is only keeping the seat warm for Bayern Munich's much sought-after former Barcelona boss.
Reports in Spain on Friday claimed City had agreed a deal in principle with the Spaniard and speculation increased when Guardiola later pulled out of a planned press conference in Munich citing personal reasons.
For Pellegrini, such talk is nothing new. Rumours of a City move for Guardiola have recurred throughout his tenure at the Etihad, and even predate his arrival in 2013.
Pellegrini said: "It is a rumour that we have had for the last two-and-a-half seasons. There is not a problem about that.
"I don't analyse different rumours. Everyone can make rumours, write or talk about different rumours.
"It's not a lack of respect about me - this is the profession. It is that way. In every big team - Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea, Manchester United - it is the same thing. You must have trust in your work - that's very important."
Pellegrini, 62, signed a one-year extension to a contract that was due to expire at the end of the last season. That was never likely to put an end to speculation linking Guardiola, who is also out of contract next summer, with City but Pellegrini is not distracted from his job.
The Chilean said: "The only confidence I have is about my work. " - PA Sport.