Friday 3 February 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Martin Rickett
# sticks and stones
Man City back on top but winless run continues after Stones error
Kelechi Iheanacho’s second-half goal earned a point for the hosts.

MANCHESTER CITY ARE back on top of the Premier League but are without a win in five games following Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Southampton.

Kelechi Iheanacho cancelled out Nathan Redmond’s opener to seal a point for Pep Guardiola’s side, who still looked to be feeling the effects of Wednesday’s 4-0 Champions League defeat to Barcelona.

City, who recalled Sergio Aguero to the side and handed a first league start of the season to captain Vincent Kompany, looked disjointed and short of ideas in a first half during which the home fans grew increasingly frustrated, even before John Stones gifted Redmond his second goal in as many matches.

Half-time substitute Iheanacho came to City’s rescue on 55 minutes, however, turning home Leroy Sane’s low cross for his eighth goal in 11 league appearances.

Fraser Forster made good saves to deny Ilkay Gundogan and David Silva as City pushed for a winner, but Claudio Bravo had to beat away Charlie Austin’s low strike to ensure City’s place back at the top, ahead of Arsenal and Liverpool on goal difference.

Manchester City v Southampton - Premier League - Etihad Stadium Martin Rickett Martin Rickett

Question marks will again be raised over their form, however, as they prepare for an EFL Cup last-16 clash against Manchester United at Old Trafford in three days’ time.

City lined up with a back three once more in a fluid 3-2-4-1 system, but there was little to note about their attacking play as the first 20 minutes passed without a shot from either side until Jordy Clasie blazed over from 20 yards.

Southampton had settled the better of the teams and, with 27 minutes played, they capped their good display after pouncing on an error from Stones.

The England centre-back, under no pressure, played a square ball behind Kompany and into the path of Redmond, who skipped beyond Bravo before turning the ball home.

Stones thought he had made amends five minutes later when he bundled in Kevin De Bruyne’s free-kick, but the goal was disallowed after Aguero, who jumped to head the ball but failed to make contact, was flagged offside.

Guardiola introduced Iheanacho for De Bruyne at half-time in an effort to return some spark to his attack, and the bold move paid dividends within just 10 minutes.

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Manchester City v Southampton - Premier League - Etihad Stadium Richard Sellers Richard Sellers

Fernandinho picked out Sane with a fine long pass and the Germany winger squared for Iheanacho, who just beat Virgil van Dijk to the ball to steer it past Forster from four yards.

Iheanacho almost forced a second for City when his cut-back came off Jose Fonte and bounced narrowly wide of the near post, and only a fine low save from Forster denied Gundogan after he linked up brilliantly with the Nigeria striker.

Silva’s effort from close range was blocked by Forster and Austin should have done better when he shot straight at Bravo from the edge of the area, but Claude Puel’s side deserved their point as they bounced back impressively from a Europa League loss to Inter.

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