Shaun shines as City win
By Richard Jolly. Last Updated: 01/01/05 4:50pm
After 150 home Premiership games, Manchester City have an even record: 50 wins, 50 draws and 50 defeats. Their fiftieth victory, however, was anything but an even game as Southampton slumped to a 2-1 loss.
In torrential rain, City clinched the three points before half time, illuminated by a stunning strike by Shaun Wright-Phillips after Paul Bosvelt's headed opener.
And City, consistently inconsistent, produced the kind of performance that usually prompts Kevin Keegan to optimistically tip them for a top six finish.
But Southampton endured a miserable 2004 and started 2005 with a dismal display; they were especially insipid in the first 45 minutes when Harry Redknapp's unambitious 4-5-1 formation failed to prevent City storming forward.
It only took City 19 minutes to make the breakthrough. From Robbie Fowler's inswinging corner, the unmarked Richard Dunne headed to the equally unattended Bosvelt to score from close range.
Buoyed by Bosvelt's goal and their superiority on the right flank, City were unrelenting. The reluctance of the ineffectual Neil McCann to track back left the inexperienced Martin Cranie exposed against the rapid Wright-Phillips. With Danny Mills overlapping enthusiastically, it was as one-sided a contest as the match itself.
Nicolas Anelka, nursing a New Year hangover, scuffed a shot straight at Antti Niemi. Wright-Phillips made greater use of the space he was afforded, drawing a fine save from the agile Niemi and providing a cross for Fowler to head past the Finn, only for Danny Higginbotham to dash back and chest clear on the goal line.
But it was a venture infield that brought Wright-Phillips his seventh of the season. Picking up the ball in the centre circle, he skipped past David Prutton in the midfield mudbath, accelerated and whipped a 30-yard shot that flicked Niemi's post on its way in.
City should have scored more goals. Joey Barton lofted a shot way over the bar, Dunne was inches away from meeting a Mills chance and substitute Jon Macken shot inches wide in injury time.
But the final goal of the game from Southampton as City, who had contrived to a concede a goal to a West Brom team who did not have a shot on Tuesday, were deprived of a clean sheet again.
Kevin Phillips converted a penalty after Sylvain Distin tripped Peter Crouch, brought on in a half-time Redknapp reshuffle.
It was necessary; though both McCann and Rory Delap had chances either side of Wright-Phillips' goal, both made a mess of them. Southampton's malaise was summed up by the sight of Danny Higginbotham as their set-piece specialist.
Crouch brought some purpose to the attack and, but for David James' athletic block, he would have scored. Phillips thought he did when he turned in a Fabrice Fernandes cross, only to be denied by the offside verdict.
Though City specialise in snatching draws and defeat from the jaws of victory, Phillips' eventual strike was too late to do that and only succeeded in masking the hosts' earlier dominance.
Click on fixture for player ratings
Manchester City v Southampton
|Manchester City||Team Name||Southampton|
|8||Shots on target ( Inc Goals )||2|
|7||Shots off Target (inc woodwork)||5|
|13||Total Fouls Conceded||9|
Barclays Premier League
Sat 1st Jan
Liverpool0 - 1Chelsea
Fulham3 - 1C Palace
Man City2 - 1So'ton
Charlton1 - 3Arsenal
Bolton1 - 1W Brom
Newcastle2 - 1Birm'ham
Tottenham5 - 2Everton
A Villa1 - 0Blackburn
Portsmth1 - 1Norwich
M'boro0 - 2Man Utd
Barclays Premier League
|4||West Ham United||16||28|
|14||West Bromwich Albion||16||17|
|18||Queens Park Rangers||16||14|