Vincent Kompany turns in vintage display as Man City rout Southampton
With the match bearing all the hallmarks of a typically lethargic end of season encounter, City finally transformed their advantage in possession into three very welcome second-half goals. Looking assured and clinical, the 3-0 victory at Southampton serves as a shot in the arm to City's chances of finishing in the top four and for their chances of success in next weekend's FA Cup semifinal.
It was refreshing to see the patient build-up play bringing its reward, as Southampton were gradually passed to a standstill. As a warm-up for the FA Cup semifinal with Arsenal next week, it turned out to be a wholly positive exercise. Vincent Kompany's emergence once again as a strong and reliable figure in central defence gave the side a more compact look at the back and made one wonder what City's season might have looked like had their captain been a feature of the infamously dithery defence this entire time.
Until the second-half breakthrough, once again it had looked like the story of the match would be excessive possession with no end product. After half an hour, City's 70 percent possession had produced no shots on target. Nearly 400 first-half passes brought the side in at half-time still drawing 0-0. To avoid a festival of harmless short passes with Arsenal in a week's time, lessons from the second half's more thrusting moments must be learnt.
Manager Rating out of 10
8 -- Brought the same patient game plan to the table as usual, with the same shape to deliver the points. Here, refreshingly, it eventually worked a treat.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Claudio Bravo, 6 -- With little to do, he still found time to look hesitant in playing the ball out and nervy when closed down by eager attackers. Managed a save from an effort on target when Maya Yoshida's straightforward header went straight into his arms.
DF Jesus Navas, 7 -- After some dithering in recent games, he combined well with Kevin de Bruyne down the right-hand side. It was his rocket shot, turned over by Fraser Forster, that led to City's breakthrough from the subsequent corner.
DF Gael Clichy, 6 -- Started brightly and was frequently involved with Leroy Sane down the left, but was underused in a quieter second half.
DF Nicolas Otamendi, 7 -- Happy to venture forward thanks to the anchor-like presence of Vincent Kompany alongside him. Confident in the tackle and able to intercept a number of Southampton balls through the middle.
DF Vincent Kompany, 8 -- Gave the entire defence a more settled feel, blocking Southampton's one dangerous ball when Nathan Redmond had bypassed Navas down the flank. Lent his power to the attack to score the opener, beating Yoshida to head in past a flapping Forster.
MF Fernandinho, 7 -- Quietly effective in an unobtrusive performance in front of the defence. One beautiful raking pass down the right that was just too much for a reduced Navas, who had been stamped on by Dusan Tadic minutes earlier.
MF David Silva, 7 -- Once again overlooked in the PFA shortlist for Player of the Year, some clues as to why this happened may have been revealed here. His game is all about simple passes without the gimmicks; no "Hollywood passes" here either. Also, unlike when he turns out for his national side, he refuses to put away his chances. Two more went begging here. Still found a beautiful pass to put De Bruyne through and set up the third.
MF Kevin de Bruyne, 7 -- Signs that he is at last emerging from a long period of patchy form, with two excellent assists towards the end of the game. Had started inauspiciously with a number of poor touches but finished as the Premier League's top assist maker.
MF Yaya Toure, 7 -- Chugging away nicely in midfield, he did his best work when in the opposition box. His twinkling feet twice took him into dangerous positions and a he powered a header just over. A steadying influence.
MF Leroy Sane, 7 -- City's danger man was well-contained by Cedric Soares until the last quarter when he managed to break free and net a clinical breakaway goal. Had earlier been involved in the talking point of the first half when rounding the goalkeeper, but did not appear to be touched as he went to ground.
FW Sergio Aguero, 7 -- Fast out of the blocks with three attempts in the first eight minutes. Some of his passing choices suggested he did not fully trust De Bruyne's current poor form but he was set up by the Belgian for City's third and final goal, which he put away powerfully with his head.
MF Pablo Zabaleta, NR -- Came on for David Silva after 80 minutes to strengthen the middle.
FW Kelechi Iheanacho, NR -- Arrived in place of Sergio Aguero after 88 minutes, too little time to make a name for himself.
Simon is one of ESPN FC's Manchester City bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @bifana_bifana.