Sadio Mane hit a hat-trick as Southampton routed a much changed Manchester City side at St Mary’s Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Manuel Pellegrini made eight changes from the team which started the Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid on Tuesday, and his back-up squad did little to impress, with Kelechi Iheanacho bagging a brace in what was the only positive for City.
The visitors controlled the early stages of the game, and should have taken the lead through Raheem Sterling.
The winger – who was hoping to stake a claim for David Silva’s starting spot at the Bernabeu – received a cross from Iheanacho, but he could only fire straight at Fraser Forster.
It was an impressive save from the English keeper, but Sterling should have done much better with his weak and poorly directed attempt.
The miss seemed to galvanise the Saints, who started to dominate play, making a number of incisive breakaways into Joe Hart’s penalty area.
Dusan Tadic and Shane Long were causing terror to Nicolas Otamendi and Eliaquim Mangala in the final third, and the duo combined as the hosts opened the scoring.
Full-back Cuco Martina sent a long ball down the right wing, which Tadic ran on to, before flicking a cross into the centre of the area.
Long beat Otamendi to the ball, tapping home a well-deserved goal, and it did not take long for Ronald Koeman’s men to double their advantage.
Tadic was once again involved, the Serbian winger capitalising on the space presented to him on the right wing.
He cut onto his left foot, playing a wonderful ball through two City players, which Mane picked up to easily fire past Hart.
The visitors were being comprehensively outplayed, and a weak Fernandinho attempt was the only respite City had from a wave of Southampton attacks.
However, it was Pellegrini’s men who scored the next goal, getting back into the game just before half-time – with the Southampton defenders doing their best impersonation of the comically poor Otamendi and Mangala.
Samir Nasri played a low cross from the right wing into the box, which Virgil van Dijk attempted to clear.
The Dutchman slipped in the act, slicing the ball onto teammate Martina, and he failed to react in time, as the ball smashed off his body into the air.
Teenage starlet Iheanacho had no trouble converting the free header presented to him, and the goal brought a renewed vigour to City, who dominated the play in the opening stages of the second half.
The Nigerian had a good attempt saved by Forster as the visitors looked to restore parity, but Southampton grabbed an unlikely third, scoring after their first real attack of the period.
They won a corner which was curled into the box, Van Dijk rising highest, only to see his header crash off the bar.
Continued defensive mishaps meant City failed to clear, and Mane was on hand to power a close range finish into the back of the net.
Koeman’s men continued to press for another, Van Dijk’s bicycle kick attempt acrobatically saved by Hart, but it didn’t take long before the keeper was beaten once again.
Mane received another perfect pass from Tadic, and the pacy attacker finished confidently to complete his hat-trick.
Still, the game was not over, and Iheanacho pulled another one back for City, curling a lovely attempt into the far corner from the edge of the box, doing much to show Pellegrini that he deserves a role against Madrid.
He put in an excellent individual performance amongst a group of players who were well below par, with the Saints well deserving of three points which keep their Europa League dreams alive.