Saints trailed to a tenth minute strike from Sergio Aguero who finished off Aleksandar Kolarov’s low cross with a fine shot that found the bottom right corner of Paulo Gazzaniga’s goal. That was Aguero’s eleventh goal in his ten league games, as his rich vein of form continued.
Many a team might have crumbled from then on, as City threatened to open the floodgates with their attacking prowess starting to show its teeth, but a resilient first half display from the hosts saw them stay right into the game heading towards the break.
And Saints deservedly drew level just three minutes before the whistle when Osvaldo produced a strike of special quality by twisting and turning through into the are on the left side before clipping a superb lob into the top right corner of the goal for a shot that gave Costel Pantilimion no chance of stopping.
A scoreless second 45 was not without incident, with Saints looking the more likely to claim a winner, and they threw both Rickie Lambert and Gaston Ramirez into it late on in a bid to do just that, but keeping City at bay proved just as important for the hosts as they arrested a run of three games without a point.
Calum Chambers, Jack Cork, Jose Fonte and Dani Osvaldo all came into the starting eleven from the midweek defeat to Aston Villa. Rickie Lambert was amongst those to drop out, with the frontman taking a place on the bench alongside another casualty from the Villa game, Maya Yoshida.
Nathaniel Clyne and Victor Wanyama joined Morgan Schneiderlin and Artur Boruc on the sidleines so there was room for Gaston Ramirez, Harrison Reed and Sam Gallagher to come back into the 18, with all three taking up a place amongst the substitutes.
After a minute’s applause to celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela, Saints got the game underway with Steven Davis and Dani Osvaldo taking the first touches of the afternoon inside the centre circle.
The hosts lined up in their predominantly red strip and showed no fear as they attacked City from the whistle with Dani Osvaldo and Jay Rodriguez each looking to make early inroads against the visiting backline.
It was City who almost created the first chance though inside the opening couple of minutes when a perfectly angled pass across to James Milner on the right flank almost brought a one-on-one chance with Gazzaniga, but Dejan Lovren timed his sliding challenge to perfection and thwarted the danger.
After Negredo’s heavy touch let him down at one end, Saints responded with a decent break that resulted in Lallana’s tee up finding Steven Davis, who shot wide on the volley.
It was an end-to-end action, with Saints creating plenty through midfield, but with ten minutes on the watch, City broke the deadlock. Fonte had made a loose clearance and the ball broke back out to the left where Aleksandar Kolarov got to the byline and he crossed low into the area where Sergio AGUERO was waiting to fire in a low shot past Gazzaniga for 1-0.
Saints survived another couple of scares with Pablo Zabaleta’s low cross eventually turned out by Calum Chambers, and from the resulting corner, Kolarov headed wide across the face of goal, with City now getting a firm grip on the game.
The hosts weathered the storm well though, and soon grew back into the game. Rodriguez showed his direct style to almost get the better of Vincent Kompany, before Lallana turned Dimechelis to win a corner that Lovren headed wide from Ward-Prowse’s delivery.
Again an undeterred Saints came back at the visitors with Luke Shaw and James Ward-Prowse the next two red shirts to attack the City backline. Ward-Prowse was fouled by Yaya Toure, with the teenager stepping up to take the free-kick, which deflected off Kompany and out for a corner.
Pantilimon collected the set piece, but was given a let-off a few moments later when Osvaldo shaped to shoot, only to be flagged for offside by the referee’s assistant.
Still Saints pressed up to the half hour mark with Chambers adding weight to the attack before Cork tested Pantilimon from range.
City quickly turned defence to attack with Yaya Toure finding Zabaleta, who in turn fed Aguero, but this time the Argentine couldn’t apply the finish from inside the area.
Rodriguez continued to cause City problems down the left, but it was from the right that Saints posed their next question to the visitors when Chambers picked out Lallana, but the skipper couldn’t quite get the ball under control for a shot.
Lovren turned attacker to win the ball back on City’s byline where he crossed dangerously towards the six yard box, but the effort was cleared for a corner. From the set-piece delivery, Lovren again showed awareness with a pass to pick out Shaw’s run down the left, but Ward-Prowse couldn’t get on the end of the full-back’s cross.
At the other end, Aguero warmed Gazzaniga’s hands with a drilled shot on the edge of the area, but as play reached the final ten minutes of the half the hosts still looked more likely to score.
Saints’ best chance of the half to-date saw Shaw’s whipped cross from the left headed narrowly wide by Calum Chambers, before Ward-Prowse struck a fierce low drive that Pantilimon scrambled across to keep out.
The pressure told on 42 minutes with a simply quite special goal. Steven Davis played a clever ball over the top and into the final third which OSVALDO dinked the ball with his first touch to get the better of Kompany and then twisted inside and out before letting fly with a stunning arched strike that looped into the top right corner for an exquisite equaliser.
The goal had given Osvaldo a clear lift as well as his teammates, who now sensed an opportunity to double their money before the break, but City stood firm.
However, the visitors offered a reminder of their threat at the end of the half when Nasri received the ball out on the left to cut inside and flash a strong drive over the bar from ten yards out
HALF-TIME: SOUTHAMPTON 1-1 MANCHESTER CITY
The new half began with City wasting possession from kick-off as a long ball downfield went straight out of play, which was greeted by a roar of approval from the home support.
Saints looked to pick up from where they left off and created an early chance for themselves when Chambers got the better of Kolarov, but by the time the ball reached Osvaldo, the Italian had strayed offside.
City came back at the hosts with Aguero testing Gazzaniga from ten yards out before Yay Toutre hit a vicious strike narrowly wide of the right post.
In the 53rd minute Saints looked destined to score after Rodriguez had tricked his way through one on one with Pantilimon, the keeper managed to block the striker’s shot, but the rebound opened out invitingly for Osvaldo who couldn’t keep his shot down as he aimed for the far corner.
Pantilimon had looked shaky in an attempt to clear the ball prior to that move, and Saints sensed a chance to keep the pressure on the Romanian shot stopper.
Saints briefly lost Steven Davis as the midfielder received treatment for a nock from Dimichelis, but the Northern Irishman soon returned, with the hosts building up from the back again to stifle City’s advances.
It almost reaped dividends when Rodriguez got on the end of Shaw’s pass to break into the area where Kompany’s loose challenge saw the ball fall quickly at Osvaldo’s feet, but the striker’s effort flashed wide.
Davis worked Pantilimon from range again before City made a double substitution as they sought a way back into the contest in terms of possession. Javi Garcia and Jesus Navas entered the action for the visitors in place of Milner and Negredo after 62 minutes of play.
Saints offered plenty going forward and a delightful chip from Lallana put Osvaldo through on goal where the striker earned his side a corner by playing the ball off a City defender. Rodriguez headed wide at the far post from Ward-Prowse’s cross, with the hosts showing no let-up in their search for their second.
At the other end, Aguero smashed a low strike wide of the right post with a shot that went across the face of goal, but there was another scare to follow when Lovren went down with a knock that required treatment. To much adulation from the stands, the defender was quickly welcomed back onto the pitch in time for a City corner which was cleared by the hosts.
Davis then went off again, but even with a man off the pitch Saints maintained their attacking threat long enough to win a free-kick in a dangerous position. The set-piece was whipped in by Ward-Prowse from the right and Fonte appeared to connect with a header as the ball went over, but the last touch actually came from Kompany, though no corner was given by the match official.
Against the run of play, Kolarov then shot into the side-netting for City after Aguero slipped the full-back in on goal with Saints on high alert at the back.
The legs had caught up with Osvaldo when he stretched to reach the ball with a quarter of an hour to play, and the goal scorer was replaced by Rickie Lambert soon after.
Jay Rodriguez’s looped header from a Ward-Prowse free-kick was held by Pantilimon before City went for broke by introducing Edin Dzeko who scored at St Mary’s last season, in place of Yay Toure in a bid to regain their lead.
Nasri was booked for a foul on Davis as a pulsating end to the game began, with Saints still causing the visitors some nervous moments at the back though they were not helped by some awkward decisions from the match officials.
Gaston Ramirez was introduced in place of Lallana as Saints pushed on in the last five minutes of the 90 battling against a City side who were without their protector in front of the defence and looking vulnerable.
Chambers earned the hosts a free-kick in a threatening looking position, but before that was taken Saints brought a Premier League debutant onto the field with Harrison Reed coming on in place of Steven Davis.
The set-piece came to nothing, but four minutes of additional time for stoppage gave the whole stadium another lift as the hosts clamoured for a late winner.
Aguero was booked for throwing the ball away after a foul on Reed inside the Saints half, and the Academy prospect certainly made a nuisance of himself to the City backline in the closing stages, but the final whistle curtailed any late chance the hosts had of taking anything more from the game.
FULL-TIME: SOUTHAMPTON 1-1 MANCHESTER CITY
Southampton team: Paulo Gazzaniga, Calum Chambers, Jose Fonte, Dejan Lovren, Luke Shaw, Jack Cork, Steven Davis (Harrison Reed 90), James Ward-Prowse, Adam Lallana (c) (Gaston Ramirez 85), Jay Rodriguez, Dani Osvaldo (Rickie Lambert 76)
Unused substitutes: Cody Cropper, Maya Yoshida, Jos Hooiveld, Sam Gallagher
Manchester City team: Costel Pantilimon, Aleksandar Kolorov, Vincent Kompany, Martin Dimechelis, Pablo Zabaleta, James Milner (Javi Garcia 62), Yaya Toure (Edin Dzeko 78), Fernandinho, Samir Nasri, Sergio Aguero, Alvaro Negredo (Jesus Navas 62)
Unused substitutes: Joe Hart, Micah Richards, Joleon Lescott, Gael Clichy
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Attendance: 31,229 (including 2,541 away)