Manchester City closed to within five points of Premier League leaders Arsenal with a comfortable 4-1 win at Southampton on Saturday.
Erling Haaland scored his 43rd goal of the season with a close-range header on the stroke of half-time before Jack Grealish doubled the visitors’ lead on 58 minutes, steering home the rebound after Saints goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu saved his initial effort.
Grealish then turned provider for Haaland to volley home his 30th Premier League goal of the season. Sekou Mara scored his first Southampton goal with a sidefooted finish after fine work from fellow substitute Moussa Djenepo on 72 minutes.
Haaland was withdrawn for the final 21 minutes and his replacement, Julian Alvarez, converted a 75th-minute penalty after Kevin De Bruyne was fouled by Kyle Walker-Peters.
1. City pile pressure on Arsenal again
This is the fourth consecutive Premier League weekend in which Manchester City have played before Arsenal and they cut the deficit to the leaders on each occasion. The Gunners have repeatedly responded to that pressure but must now do so by winning on Sunday at Liverpool — a ground where they haven’t won a league game since 2012 — to re-establish an eight-point lead at the top of the table.
City were methodical in the first-half and threatened to run riot in the second against a team rooted to the bottom of the table and bereft of any sustained self-belief. Guardiola was able to rest Haaland and Rodri as the game wore on and the danger for Arsenal is City are increasingly looking like getting into one of those relentless winning runs.
This was their eighth consecutive win in all competitions and although two Champions League games against Bayern Munich will strongly test their ability to keep it going, City are showing clear signs now of peaking at the business end of the season.
2. Records keep tumbling for Haaland
Erling Haaland became the third player to reach 30 Premier League goals in a debut season with a 69-minute outing that encapsulates his impact at Manchester City. The 22-year-old was on the periphery early on, registering just two touches in the opening 25 minutes. He wasted a good chance from Kevin de Bruyne’s 41st-minute cross but made no mistake on the stroke of half-time, heading home the Belgian’s inviting delivery.
His second goal was another reminder of his class, arching his body to meet Grealish’s ball across the box with an acrobatic volley. Haaland left the field having touches the ball just 12 times. He completed two of three passes. But none of that matters when he is this deadly in front of goal.
His 30 league goals is a higher number than eight teams in the division (Chelsea, Wolves, West Ham, Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, Everton, Nottingham Forest and Southampton). He now has 44 goals in 38 games since joining City from Borussia Dortmund last summer.
3. De Bruyne inspires City
In laying on Haaland’s first goal, De Bruyne became the fifth player ever to reach 100 Premier League assists and he did so in the fewest number of games (237). De Bruyne’s place in City and Premier League history is already assured but he also remains the key to unlocking Haaland’s effectiveness in this current side.
As absurd as it sounds given his personal goal tally, there have been times this season when Haaland has looked disconnected from his teammates but De Bruyne is always the most likely to stitch their attack together; this was the seventh time he had combined with Haaland for a Premier League goal, the most one City has ever assisted another in a single season.
Best and worst performers
Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City: Southampton adopted a novel approach by essentially not bothering to mark him but De Bruyne used that space brilliantly to show his class.
Jack Grealish, Manchester City: Continued his fine form with a goal and an assist in another vibrant display.
Erling Haaland, Manchester City: Chalk up two more for the goal machine who was barely involved until he scored yet ended up defining another game.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Southampton: In fairness, he wasn’t given much help and is a makeshift right-back (at best) but was horribly exposed time and again by Grealish.
Kamaldeen Sulemana, Southampton: Wasted Southampton’s two brightest moments with the score at 0-0.
Riyad Mahrez, Manchester City: One of his more ineffective outings, completing just 20 of his 30 passes and rightly substituted for Bernardo Silva before the hour mark.
Highlights and notable moments
Right on the cusp of halftime, Erling Haaland combined with De Bruyne to score his 29th Premier League goal of the season.
2️⃣9️⃣ for Haaland!
Inching closer to the record 👀
🎥 @NBCSportsSoccer | #SOUMCIpic.twitter.com/c81Zwjw5wL
— Premier League USA (@PLinUSA) April 8, 2023
Who else but Haaland? The Norwegian striker delivers City’s third goal of the match with a stellar bicycle kick.
ERLING HAALAND HITS 30 PREMIER LEAGUE GOALS WITH THIS STUNNING FINISH! 😍
📺: @nbc & @peacock #MyPLMorning | #SOUMCI pic.twitter.com/uhlLaoMEvR
— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) April 8, 2023
After the match: What the managers and players said
Quotes to come…
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information research)
Manchester City: Pep Guardiola will host his former team Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarterfinals on April 11, followed by another home match against struggling Leicester City on April 15.
Southampton: The Saints sit bottom of the table and face Crystal Palace next on April 15 and then a visit to the Emirates against league leaders Arsenal on April 21.