Southampton were within twenty minutes of scooping a stunning victory at the Etihad but Manchester City reacted brilliantly late on to claim a deserved 2-1 win at the Etihad on Saturday.
Two late goals from Sergio Aguero and Kyle Walker helped the Citizens battled back from a goal down to earn all three points at stake.
Southampton surprisingly led at the break thanks to a Ward-Prowse goal but City showed champions mettle to find a way through to three massive points.
Pep Guardiola made three changes to the XI that started last week’s 3-0 victory over Aston Villa in the Premier League with Angelino and Walker replacing Mendy and Joao Cancelo respectively as fullbacks, while Jesus was dropped in favour of Aguero.
Six points back of pace-setting Liverpool, Manchester City knew before kickoff that a third consecutive Premier League victory would keep them within two wins of Jurgen Klopp’s side, ahead of their clash next weekend.
Southampton arrived at the Etihad for the second time in less than a week, after their match in the EFL Cup on Tuesday, which ended 3-1 to the hosts. The Citizens were clear favourites against 18th-placed Saints, who had conceded a league-high 25 times.
However, a very strange first half played out as a half thoroughly dominated by Manchester City ended with Southampton up 1-0 thanks to Ward-Prowse’s tap-in following an Armstrong shot spilled by Ederson.
City spent most of the opening 45 minutes with their entire team – bar their goalkeeper – inside the opposition’s half but were more or less unable to trouble McCarthy in goal.
The visitors, who lost 9-0 at home to Leicester City just eight days ago, defended manfully, blocking shots and hoofing the ball into the stands at every opportunity, and though they allowed Guardiola’s side 14 shots in the opening frame, none were on target.
Guardiola, at the resumption of the match, threw on Gabriel Jesus in favour of David Silva in a bid to spark off a second half comeback, yet with an hour gone, the home side had still not registered a single shot on target.
As the game wore on, Southampton’s concentration remained spectacular with every one of Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men committed to keeping the score at one-nil. Still, nothing the hosts did worked, not least the introduction of Jesus.
That was until the 70th minute however when Argentina international Sergio Aguero made the breakthrough for City with a clinical finish.
Kyle Walker charged towards the byline down the right and fired a low cross towards the penalty spot for Aguero, who put it through the legs of McCarthy with a great first-time finish.
It was a goal Manchester City’s dominance clearly merited but apparently one goal would not be enough for Guardiola and his men and the Citizens, with two strikers on the pitch, went in search of the winning goal.
And they nearly created it moments later but for a stunning save from the visitors’ goalkeeper. Sterling played a lovely reverse pass towards the centre of the penalty area for Bernardo Silva, who hammered a shot from close range. McCarthy was however equal to it though as he popped it straight up and over for a City corner kick.
It finally arrived though with a few minutes left on the clock to break Saints’ hearts.
From one fullback to another, Angelino’s perfect cross from the left took the Southampton goalkeeper off his line, only for the delivery to meet the outstretched foot of Walker. From there, it was a simple tap-in for the right-back.
It was a fully deserved win for the hosts, even though the visitors battled bravely, and with Liverpool also claiming a late, late win at Aston Villa, the Citizens remain six points behind the Reds ahead of their faceoff next week.