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Super Southampton, who had won back to back promotions to reach the Premier League got the toughest possible assignment on the opening day of the season, visiting the reigning champions Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium in the late kick-off on Sunday. The Saints though put on a memorable show for their travelling fans and even briefly led the game 2-1 at one stage before City deservedly came away with all three points with what is no doubt becoming their favourite scoreline of all time, 3-2!
A first half goal from Carlos Tevez was cancelled out by the brilliant Rickie Lambert, with Steven Davis putting the Saints 2-1 ahead in the 68th minute. Edin Dzeko, who brought Man City level on that glorious day in May earlier this year, did so again today in the 72nd minute before Samir Nasri sealed the points for City with an opportunistic strike in the 80th minute.
City, fresh from beating Chelsea in the Community Shield last weekend, named a strong line-up with the Argentine duo of Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez leading the line. Samir Nasri and David Silva played in tandem as the creative force, while Jack Rodwell was a surprise starter, making his Manchester City debut in the holding role alongside Yaya Toure. Joleon Lescott and Joe Hart recovered from their minor niggles to also earn starting berths.
Southampton unlike their opponents hardly boasted of a side with any household names, but did give newcomers Jay Rodriguez and Nathaniel Clyne their debuts on opposite ends of the pitch. Rodriguez, the club's record signing for 6 million pounds from Burnley had his work cut out for him, leading the line, while young Clyne taken on from Crystal Palace was to be severely tested by Manchester City's attack force.
Southampton made a bright start to the game, looking confident on the ball, but lacked penetration. The game though had an early stoppage due to an injury picked up by Aguero, who was caught by Clyne. The Argentine striker, who bagged 30 goals for City in his debut season had to be stretchered off, and was replaced by Edin Dzeko, who got the nod ahead of a perhaps slightly under-prepared Mario Balotelli.
There was a lot happening very early on in the game with City winning a penalty in the 16th minute with Hooiveld bringing down Tevez inside the box. David Silva stepped up to take the spot kick, but it was a bit of a howler, and easily a contender for the worst penalty of the season.
Southampton, who had competed well for the first 20-25 minutes, started to get pegged further back in their own half as the game wore on, and City were getting ever closer to opening the scoring. The goal eventually did come through Tevez in the 40th minute, who latched on to a hopeful long pass from Samir Nasri, beating Kelvin Davis at his near post, but City were more than a little fortunate to have the goal stand because the Argentine international was marginally offside when the ball was played to him, and truth be told looked considerably more offside than he really was!
City had a few more chances to open the scoring before the break, but could not make the most of them, with Southampton probably relieved to hear the half-time whistle.
The second half started slowly, with City continuing to dominate and having more than decent half-chances to put the games to bed. Gael Clichy and David Silva were both guilty of missing opportunities that better finishers might have well buried.
The game came to life when Southampton replaced Rodriguez with superstar Rickie Lambert, who would have been gutted to have been benched after leading the Saints to promotion last season. Lambert did not take long to see his name up in lights, rifling in an excellent drive from just inside the box giving Hart no chance in the City goal.
Southampton went from dreamland to heaven in a matter of minutes when another substitute Steven Davis got on the end of a 5 on 3 Saints break to trickle the ball past an outstretched Hart to put Southampton 2-1 ahead.
The lead for the Saints though lasted just barely 5 minutes with Edin Dzeko smashing the ball home from close range to bring City back level.
And the comeback eas complete on the 80th minute mark when Nasri was in the right place at the right time to latch onto a misplaced header from Daniel Fox, who instead of either letting the ball run out for a goal kick or put it behind for a corner, headed Clichy's overhit cross right ball back into the box where Nasri gleefully drilled the ball into the top corner.
The Saints tried hard to come back into the game, and there was time for a brief appearance from Billy Sharp, but it was not to be as City held on for all three points.
City continue their Sunday playing trend next week when they make the trip over to Anfield to take on Liverpool, while Southampton will look to get their first points of the season when they play host to perennial relegation candidates Wigan Athletic, who lost 2-0 to Chelsea earlier today.
Man City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy, Silva (Balotelli 72'), Rodwell, Toure, Nasri, Aguero (Dzeko 14'), Tevez (Kolarov 87').
Subs: Pantilimon, Milner, Dzeko, Kolarov, Savic, De Jong, Balotelli.
Southampton: Kelvin Davis, Clyne, Fonte, Hooiveld, Fox, Ward-Prowse (S Davis 65'), Lallana, Schneiderlin, Puncheon (Sharp 86'), Rodriguez (Lambert 55'), Do Prado.
Subs: Gazzaniga, Lambert, Steven Davis, Sharp, Richardson, Shaw, Seaborne.
Score: Manchester City 3-2 Southampton (Tevez 40', Lambert 59', S Davis 68', Dzeko 72', Nasri 80')
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