In what was also Mauricio Pochettino’s first success in charge of Saints, there was no doubting that this performance confirmed the outstanding progress made in the short space of time since the Argentinian manager’s arrival.
A telling factor in recent matches has been Saints’ ability to dominate their opponents from the off, and a 2-1 lead at half time earned by strikes from Jason Puncheon and then Steven Davis before the half hour mark put them in command once more.
Even though there was a reply from Edin Dzeko prior to the interval to make it 2-1 - a position Saints found themselves in during the opening day defeat in Manchester – the same outcome never looked likely in this contest, which was proved just three minutes into the new half when sustained early pressure told on Gareth Barry, who diverted past his own ‘keeper for a 3-1 lead that was unshakeable.
City threw everything forward, but never seriously threatened another goal, leaving Saints to celebrate their first success over a team in the top half of the table this season, moving up to 15th in the standings and six points clear of the relegation zone.
Saints: Boruc, Clyne, Yoshida, Hooiveld, Fox (Richardson 71), Puncheon (Lallana 61), Cork, Schneiderlin, S. Davis (Ward-Prowse 80), Rodriguez, Lambert. Subs (not used): K. Davis, Forren, Lee, Chaplow.
Man City: Hart, Zabaleta, Lescott (Kolarov 67), Garcia, Clichy, Yaya Toure, Barry, Silva (Maicon 73), Nasri (Milner 55), Dzeko, Aguero. Subs (not used): Pantilimon, Sinclair, Rodwell, Kolo Toure.
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Attendance: 31,798 (including 3,129 away)
Saints made two changes to their starting line up from the draw at Wigan. Gaston Ramirez missed out, so Steven Davis came into the side, whilst Danny Fox started in the absence of Luke Shaw.
Vegard Forren was in a matchday squad for the first time, and took his place amongst the substitutes.
Pochettino’s men got the game underway, attacking the Northam stand on a cool and slightly misty evening inside St Mary’s.
It was a composed start from the hosts, who denied the champions from getting into an early rhythm, as the red shirts swarmed around the light blue ones, taking the game to their opponents.
The early pressure paid off with seven minutes on the watch. Jason Puncheon’s timely pass into the City area paved the way for Jay Rodriguez to have a shot on goal. The effort from the frontman was blocked but came straight back into the path of PUNCHEON who rolled home for 1-0 inside the far post on seven minutes.
The visitors sought a swift response, and Aguero tested Boruc from range for an effort which the Pole gathered at the second attempt.
Saints continued to attack though, and almost found another way through when Rodriguez cut the ball back into the area and Hart had to be quick out of his goal to clear his lines.
The hosts rattled City at every opportunity when they got possession of the ball, forcing rare mistakes from Roberto Mancini’s men, who were growing ever frustrated with a lack of opportunities.
And on 22 Saints doubled the punishment when Rickie Lambert’s cut in from the right and shot at Hart was too hot for the England ‘keeper to handle, and Steven DAVIS was on hand to slide home the rebound inside the six yard box for a deserved 2-0 lead.
An uncomfortable couple of moments followed for the hosts when skipper Lambert was booked for a tug on Joleon Lescott, before Hooiveld was penalised harshly for tripping Edin Dzeko on the edge of the Saints area. Fortunately, the resulting set piece from Aguero was struck straight into the defensive wall of red shirts as Southampton kept their resolve.
In the 32nd minute Saints almost found a way through again when Rodriguez and Hooiveld combined inside the City area for the former to smash a dipping strike narrowly wide of the far post.
Zabaleta floated a cross wide at the other end, before Nathaniel Clyne went back on the offensive for Saints and cut a fierce rising strike into the side netting.
However, from the resulting corner City broke to devastating effect and reduced the deficit with 39 minutes on the watch.
David Silva was at the heart of the move linking up intelligently with Zabaleta, whose awareness picked out the on running DZEKO to clip the ball over the advancing Boruc for 2-1.
Puncheon flashed a sharp strike wide of the near post, and Schneiderlin hit Davis’s cross into the side netting, as Saints bid to restore their two goal lead in the closing stages of the half.
But after Boruc had made his first save of the half to keep out David Silva, Saints were denied a clear looking penalty when Rodriguez was shoved to ground by Yaya Toure, as the hosts settled for a one goal advantage at the interval.
Half Time: Saints 2-1 Man City
Saints hit the ground running in the new half with Steven Davis taking early aim through a deflected shot that Hart gathered, and went even closer when Lambert cut the ball across to Puncheon who blazed over with a fierce rising strike.
And those warning signs weren’t heeded by City, who were forced into their worst mistake of the night when Lambert again got free on the left side of the area, and this time, his low cross was diverted into the net by Gareth BARRY for an own goal at the far post which made it 3-1 on 48 minutes.
Unrelenting attacking play from the hosts had City chasing shadows in defence, as they struggled to clear under the severe pressure from those in red shirts.
Boruc, was though, called into action moments later to deny Aguero, who had kept himself onside to flash a strike across goal which the Polish stopper sprung to his left to save.
City immediately withdrew Nasri in favour of James Milner in the 55th minute and the substitute contributed more than the man he’d replaced with his first kick, as he smashed a dangerous drive wide of the near post.
A brief respite in the form of a first Saints substitution; saw Adam Lallana replace first scorer Puncheon to give the visitors an extra threat to deal with in the final third.
The movement from the home side in attack continued to mesmerise City’s backline, who were almost caught again when Lambert and Cork combined to tee up Schneiderlin for a volley that flew just wide of Hart’s left post.
Mancini switched Lescott for Aleksander Kolarov on 67 which preceded a booking for Yaya Toure as City were riled once more.
Pochettino was forced into his second change of the game when Fox withdrew from the action. Frazer Richardson was his 71st minute replacement, with the Yorkshireman taking up his natural right back slot, and Clyne moving across to the left.
Maicon came on for David Silva in City’s final substitution with the Brazilian under instruction to hug the right touchline and provide support to the visitors’ now four-strong attack.
The busy third City substitute found himself on the end of Kolarov’s low cross soon after, but Boruc got down well to keep Maicon at bay from close range.
Saints made their final switch with James Ward-Prowse coming on in place of Davis for the last ten minutes, and although still under the cosh from the visitors, Pochettino’s men patiently regained control of possession as they pushed and harried the champions to the last - inclusive of five minutes stoppage time - for a famous victory.
Full Time: Saints 3-1 Man City