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Man City bounce back to beat Saints, close on Liverpool

By Reuters - Dec 30,2018 - Last updated at Dec 30,2018

Southampton's Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg fouls Manchester City's Fernandinho leading to a red card on Sunday (Reuters photo)

Manchester City bounced back from two consecutive defeats to beat Southampton 3-1 on Sunday and cut the gap on Premier League leaders Liverpool to seven points before the top two meet on Thursday. 

Pep Guardiola's champions needed to regain their footing after stumbling against Crystal Palace and Leicester, and did so with strikes from David Silva, Sergio Aguero and James Ward-Prowse's own goal at St Mary's.

Charlie Austin should have put Southampton ahead, but miscontrolled the ball after being played in on goal and City immediately took advantage, with Bernardo Silva teeing up David Silva to slot home unmarked in the 10th minute.

Alex McCarthy made a good save to keep out Aguero from point-blank range after good work by Sterling and City were made to pay for their profligacy when Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg slammed home after robbing Oleksandr Zinchenko.

City regained the lead when Sterling's cut-back deflected against Ward-Prowse and in after 45 minutes and Aguero headed home another from Zinchenko's cross in the third minute of first-half stoppage time.

McCarthy made good saves to deny Sterling and Mahrez after the break, while Aguero hit the crossbar and Hojbjerg was sent off for a rash tackle on Fernandinho.

City's Brazilian defensive midfielder returned to the side after missing three matches with a thigh injury and added security in the City defence, but missed chances, particularly from Mahrez, prevented them from adding to their tally.

"We missed a lot of chances, [it could have been] 6-1, 7-1, we had to score. Liverpool are not going to give us that amount of chances," warned Guardiola.

"We had 30 exceptional minutes, made chances, we conceded a goal and when Saints were at their best we scored our second one. It's amazing in terms of the result, in terms of the play.

"Unfortunately we lost two [matches] and our next opponent is one of the top teams in Europe."

Defeat left Southampton 17th in the table on 15 points, the same as 18th placed Burnley, who beat West Ham United 2-0 on Sunday.

With the scores level at 1-1 Southampton appealed for a penalty after Ward-Prowse tumbled in the area following pressure from Zinchenko, but referee Paul Tierney correctly waved away their claims.

City, who had suffered three league defeats in four matches, might have wobbled again had it been given, but regained composure to sweep to a comfortable victory.

Crystal Palace 0, Chelsea 1

 

Chelsea kept up their pursuit of the Premier League's top three clubs with a 1-0 win away to London rivals Crystal Palace on Sunday, thanks to a strike by N'Golo Kante early in the second half.

Chelsea had to work hard to break down Palace who had taken seven points in their previous three matches, including a shock win over champions Manchester City, but seemed content to allow their visitors most of the possession.

After a sterile first 35 minutes, Willian smacked the post with a swinging free kick and Ross Barkley hit the same upright soon afterwards with an acrobatic overhead effort.

Kante broke the deadlock in the 51st minute when his darting run into the Palace penalty area was spotted by defender David Luiz who fed the France World Cup winner to score from close range.

"It is never easy to play here or control it here especially when they [Palace] play long balls but we did well. We could have scored early but they also did a great match defensively which is why it was so difficult," Chelsea's Luiz told reporters.

Chelsea forward Olivier Giroud had two goals ruled out for offside and then was forced off injured.

Coach Maurizio Sarri said the Frenchman had an ankle problem which looked set to rule him out of Wednesday's game against Southampton and adds to the team's fitness problems, particularly in attack with Pedro, Cesc Fabregas and Ruben Loftus Cheek also currently sidelined.

"We played against a dangerous opponent so we had to have possession, we played well in the first 45 minutes and even better in the second half, the only thing I didn't like is that we didn't kill the match off," added the Italian. 

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