Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez netted doubles as Manchester City returned to winning ways with a raucous 5-2 victory over Southampton at the Etihad Stadium.
Pep Guardiola’s men saw a 21-match winning run in all competitions ended by Manchester United at the weekend, and some of the defensive problems from that 2-0 defeat remained as James Ward-Prowse scored a first-half equaliser from the penalty spot and Che Adams was on target before the hour.
However, an unexpectedly open contest worked in De Bruyne and Mahrez’s favour, while Ilkay Gundogan chipped in with his 14th goal of the season in first-half stoppage time.
City are 14 points clear of United at the Premier League summit having played a game more, with their rivals in Europa League action this midweek.
The leaders started poorly but scored from their first attack of note in the 15th minute– De Bruyne making sure on the goal-line after clattering the crossbar when Alex McCarthy parried Phil Foden’s shot into his path.
Southampton were undeterred, with Ederson tipping Nathan Redmond’s low strike behind and denying Jannik Vestergaard from the resulting corner.
Unfortunately for the City goalkeeper, Aymeric Laporte pulled back Vestergaard when trying to deal with the loose ball the latter save and Ward-Prowse made no mistake from the spot.
City felt they should have had a penalty of their own when McCarthy was played into trouble by Mohammed Salisu’s backpass and hurtled into Foden.
A quickfire double from Guardiola’s side undid all of Saints’ good work – Mahrez snaffling a shocking pass from Adams to curl in a wonderful finish before Gundogan poached their third after the Algeria winger’s shot hit the post.
10 – Ilkay Gündogan has scored 10 league goals in 2021, one of four players in Europe’s top five leagues to reach double figures this year, after Robert Lewandowski (14), Lionel Messi (12) and André Silva (10). Glut. #MCISOU pic.twitter.com/rmAgVE6ssg
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 10, 2021
McCarthy saw enough of a Foden drive through a throng of bodies to save five minutes into the second half but he had no chance when Mahrez shimmied to engineer room and thump home with his trusty left foot.
A pattern of ricochets falling pleasingly for attackers continued as Adams reduced the arrears but, following another McCarthy stop to frustrate Foden, the England midfielder laid off for De Bruyne to storm into the Saints box and rifle into the bottom corner.
In the final half hour, the unlucky Foden and substitute Ferran Torres came closest to adding further gloss to the scoreline.