EPL

Southampton made us suffer - Guardiola hails Man City's 'best' opponents

By Sports Desk March 10, 2021

Pep Guardiola lauded Southampton as the best team Manchester City have faced at the Etihad Stadium this season despite the Premier League leaders running out 5-2 winners.

Three days on from a 2-0 home defeat to Manchester United in the derby, City returned to winning ways in an action-packed contest.

It was far from plain sailing after Kevin De Bruyne opened the scoring in the 15th minute as James Ward-Prowse levelled from the penalty spot when Aymeric Laporte fouled Jannik Vestergaard.

The excellent Riyad Mahrez pounced on a poor pass from Che Adams to restore City's lead and Ilkay Gundogan poached his 14th of the season in all competitions when the Algeria winger's shot came back off the post in first-half stoppage time.

Mahrez and De Bruyne each added to their personal tallies in the second half, either side of Adams getting in on the act, and Guardiola felt such individual quality proved the difference.

"They started incredibly well. They are the team who made us suffer without the ball the most this season," the City boss told Sky Sports, with his team having battled to a hard-fought 1-0 win at St Mary's in December. "Without the ball they have a process to play incredibly well."

"After three shots on target we scored two goals. Second half we were much, much better. Unfortunately, at 4-1 we conceded a goal we have to avoid but, in general, good and another victory.

"They are so good, They put a lot of players in the middle - Vestergaard and [Jan] Bednarek. Ward-Prowse has the quality to attract with his passes our players in the middle, After they found the two wingers and the strikers behind. They do it really well.

"In the first 15 or 20 minutes they were the best team we have faced at the Etihad Stadium this season.

"Today the quality of our players won the game. Phil [Foden], Riyad and Kevin, they won the game"

Despite the teams sharing seven goals, the biggest talking point arguably came when the score was 1-1 and Saints goalkeeper Alex McCarthy slid into a rash tackle on Phil Foden.

The England international looked to remain on his feet and the expected VAR call for on-field official Jon Moss to review the decision never arrived – much to Guardiola's amazement.

"Jon cannot see it but the VAR is there. You know for a long time, I never complaint about the referees, but this action is incredible. In-cre-di-ble," he exclaimed.

"The VAR exists for when the referees don't see the action, they can make a mistake.

"But for no review when you don't whistle for a penalty in this action? I don't understand."

Foden, who played the full 90 minutes of Wednesday's contest, was similarly baffled.

"I'm an honest guy and I never like to dive, I tried to stay on my feet," he told Sky Sports after setting up Mahrez and De Bruyne's second-half goals.

"I thought it was 100 per cent a penalty and I don't know what happened there, but it happens and we just had to react after that."

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