Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl said Che Adams’ first goal for the club was “so important for him” as the forward’s spectacular strike earned Southampton victory over Manchester City in a lively encounter at St Mary’s.
Adams, who joined Saints from Birmingham City for £15m a year ago, lobbed goalkeeper Ederson with a first-time strike from 40 yards out after Oleksandr Zinchenko had surrendered possession in midfield.
It has taken 30 appearances for 23-year-old Adams to open his account for the Saints, after registering 22 goals in 46 Championship games last season.
“When you hear how much the guys were celebrating him as he went into the dressing room, then you know how happy they are he scored,” Hasenhuttl said.
“He has always been working hard. He showed the trust we had in him to start him today was the right one.”
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola made six changes to the side which thrashed champions Liverpool 4-0 at Etihad Stadium on Thursday, with key playmaker Kevin de Bruyne among those initially rested.
Adams’ goal drew an intense reaction from City, as Fernandinho hit the post and the in-form Alex McCarthy kept out David Silva’s header in the aftermath.
The visitors rarely let up thereafter but were repeatedly left frustrated by Saints goalkeeper McCarthy, whose one-handed save from Gabriel Jesus in the second half was the pick of several superb stops.
Southampton had chances of their own amid the increasing City pressure but neither Nathan Redmond nor Danny Ings could convert rare opportunities, while Ederson was alert to Stuart Armstrong’s swerving shot.
There was to be no repeat of City’s comeback to win the reverse fixture 2-1 in November and defeat leaves Guardiola’s side 23 points behind Liverpool, who beat Aston Villa 2-0 earlier on Sunday.
Resolute Saints battle to brilliant win
Southampton welcomed Manchester City to St Mary’s with 40 points already secured – a tally which saw them a reassuring 13 points clear of the relegation places prior to kick-off.
That return, with six games remaining, had already bettered their total haul in each of the past two seasons and allowed Hasenhuttl’s side to approach Sunday’s fixture without fear.
Although City settled into the mesmerising passing that has hypnotised many other opponents, Southampton once again demonstrated the desire and determination which has seen them admirably recover from their humiliating 9-0 defeat by Leicester in October.
Adams has had to wait for his opportunities in his first season at Southampton but his first goal in 456 days was one to savour as Stuart Armstrong robbed Zinchenko and the striker punished the wandering Ederson emphatically.
The hosts could have led after just six minutes but Nathan Redmond was unable to convert after Adams had gathered an uncharacteristic miskick by Aymeric Laporte.
Ings went close from Kyle Walker-Peters’ excellent cross, but it was in defence where Southampton supplied the heroics as the returning Jack Stephens led by example with brave blocks and vital clearances in front of the unbeatable McCarthy.
Epitomising the commitment to the cause despite there being little to play for, striker Ings – unable to add to his tally in the race for the Golden Boot – was among those throwing their body in the way as Saints held on for a rare home victory. They have now taken 17 points from 17 home games this season.
Hasenhuttl’s side were staring at a relegation fight halfway through this campaign, but in 13th with five matches to go they have officially secured their Premier League status for another season.
Jesus struggles to replace injured Aguero
Manchester City’s immediate response to officially being dethroned as Premier League champions was to dismantle Liverpool at Etihad Stadium.
Raheem Sterling ominously claimed “next season starts now” after that result but, as Sunday’s team news suggested, City’s priorities now lie with the FA Cup and Champions League in a season in which they have already dropped more league points than in the previous two combined (33).
A return to the consistency which had delivered back-to-back league titles is the task for Guardiola, given the sheer brilliance his team can produce on any given day – yet Sunday’s defeat demonstrated that may take some work.
Zinchenko’s error was typical of the momentary lapses in concentration that have cost City so dearly this campaign, though the visitors had ample opportunities to turn the game in their favour as they fired 26 shots at goal.
Jesus, with six of those attempts, was once again unable to provide the clinical touch in Sergio Aguero’s absence, while De Bruyne and Phil Foden were unable to unlock a dogged Southampton defence following their second-half introductions.
The desire to recover a result was certainly evident in City’s performance with Riyad Mahrez and Sterling both also going close, but with second place all but secure an FA Cup semi-final meeting with Arsenal on 18 July is where attentions surely now lie.
Man of the match – Alex McCarthy (Southampton)
Guardiola’s worst away league run – the stats
- Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has lost three consecutive away league games for the first time in his managerial career
- Southampton have ended a run of six consecutive Premier League defeats against Manchester City, with their first league victory against them since May 2016
- City have lost nine Premier League games this season, last losing more in a single campaign in 2015-16 under Manuel Pellegrini, when they lost 10
- Southampton have won 11 points against ‘big six’ sides in the Premier League this season – only Wolves (12) have won more outside of those ‘big six’ sides
- Che Adams’ first goal for Southampton was the longest-range Premier League goal so far this season (39 yards). It arrived in his 25th appearance, with his 22nd shot in the competition
- Man City had 26 shots in this game. That’s their highest tally in a Premier League match without scoring since March 2016, recording the same number against Manchester United
- This was the fifth time City have made six or more changes for a Premier League match this season. With 120, they have made 33 more changes than any other side during this campaign, ahead of Arsenal and Chelsea (87 each)
Manchester City host Newcastle on Wednesday (18:00 BST), while Southampton travel to Everton on Thursday (18:00).