THEY say you have to be good to beat Manchester City – but it was the individual brilliance of a goalkeeper and shot-shy striker that did for them at St Mary’s.
Che Adams had failed to score in 29 appearances since joining Southampton for £15million last summer, having just TWO shots all season in all those games.
But the forward scored a stunning goal from 40-yards to catch City cold – then left it to keeper Alex McCarthy to almost single-handedly keep Pep Guardiola’s side out.
City threw everything they could at Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side and on another day they would have left the South Coast having scored six or seven.
But McCarthy, a vision in all pink, leapt around like a salmon to ensure there was no way past for City as they followed up the thrashing of Liverpool with their third straight away defeat.
Clearly Guardiola had a point to prove by throwing out his strongest team to destroy champions Liverpool in midweek, but now the Premier League is very much down the list of importance at the Etihad.
Six changes were made to the team from midweek as City embarked on the first of four matches in the space of ten days which come directly before the FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal.
For the purists that meant disappointment in the sight of Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden being relegated to the bench – tempered by the fact their replacements were mercurial duo David and Bernardo Silva.
No club in the division has been as bad on their own patch than the sorry Saints having taken just 14 points from their 16 games coming into this one – losing an astonishing ten of them.
One of their biggest issues has been scoring goals – and within six minutes there was another glaring example as Adams wasted a glorious chance to open the scoring.
A horror miss-kick from Aymeric Laporte left him with just Ederson to beat from 12-yards, but Adams tried to kick the skin off the ball and succeeded only in dragging his shot across goal, where Nathan Redmond got himself in a tangle and City were able to clear.
Which made what happened ten minutes later all the more surprising as Adams finally broke his Saints duck in style, seizing on the loose ball after Oleksandr Zinchenko lost possession to curl his 40-yard effort into the net over the top of the stranded Ederson.
Not bad for only his second shot on target of the campaign.
City were stung into life at that, in a similar way to how Manchester United took Bournemouth apart after going behind on Saturday.
But unlike their neighbours, Guardiola’s side found Saints far tougher to crack as first Gabriel Jesus skied a chance at the far post then Danny Ings turned up in his own six-yard box to clear a dangerous cross from Raheem Sterling.
Then came an amazing passage of play across just 30 enthralling seconds which saw Saints somehow keep the lead on four separate occasions.
First McCarthy did well to parry Sterling’s fierce 29th minute drive, but the ball was only half cleared to Fernandinho who let fly from the edge of the box but saw his shot cannon back off the inside of the post.
Bernardo Silva reacted to the loose ball to clip in a cross met by the head of David Silva from six-yards, but again McCarthy’s reflexes denied a goal.
Sterling then seized possession on the left of the area and whipped in a curling effort which just passed the wrong side of the far corner.
There was barely time to draw breath as Saints raced up the other end and Redmond tested Ederson with a low shot at the near post, before City were in behind yet again, only for McCarthy to save with his feet from Riyad Mahrez.
Some of the matches following the resumption of the season have left a lot to be desired on the entertainment from – not so here as the first half continued to serve up chances.
And next it was Ings left holding his head in frustration as he failed to control his effort on the stretch with just Ederson to beat from a fine Kyle Walker-Peters cross from the right.
The second half was only two minutes old when City again went close to levelling, but Jesus glanced his header just wide – and then McCarthy again performed heroics in the Saints goal to deny the forward from close range.
McCarthy’s defiance continued on 53 minutes as he denied David Silva what would have been a wonderful team goal as Southampton somehow held on to their slender lead.
He was at it again on 65 minutes, plunging low to collect Jesus’ header though the Brazilian should really have done better from six yards.
Guardiola threw the cavalry on in the shape of De Bruyne and Foden but for all their efforts they just could not find a way past Saints and their desperate defending.