Manchester City brought their losing streak to an end with a comfortable 3-1 win over Southampton on Sunday afternoon.
After both sides spurned some decent opportunities during the opening exchanges, it was the visitors who opened the scoring on the ten minute mark through David Silva. Bernardo Silva bombed down the right flank before laying the ball on a plate for his namesake, who stroked the ball home with aplomb.
Southampton responded well to going behind and, after surviving a period of City dominance, they were able to find an equaliser ten minutes before half-time. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg capitalised on some sloppy play from Oleksandr Zinchenko, drove forward with the ball and thundered it into the roof of the net.
Moments before the half-time interval, City hit two quick-fire goals to put themselves back in the driving seat. First, Raheem Sterling's attempted cross deflected in off James-Ward Prowse and then minutes later Sergio Aguero headed home after an impressive delivery from Zinchenko.
The second-half wasn't as action packed as the first and there was very little in the way of goalmouth activity. Southampton were unable to find a route back into the match and their afternoon turned from bad to worse during the closing exchanges when Hojbjerg was given a straight red card for a needlessly aggressive challenge on Fernandinho minutes before full-time.
Key Talking Point
Southampton's recent performances have been a far cry from the uninspired showings they were consistently putting in under their former manager Mark Hughes.
They certainly didn't disgrace themselves in this one and, if a somewhat controversial penalty decision towards the end of the first-half went their way, then the end result could have looked completely different.
In the end, they were simply outclassed by City, especially as the second-half wore on, but they should hold their heads high for putting up a decent fight. These aren't the sort of games that will end up defining their season, so they can do nothing but move on to the next one.
Starting XI: McCarthy (6); Ramsay (6), Bednarek (6), Stephens (6), Targett (5); Ward-Prowse (6), Hojbjerg (6), Lemina (4), Romeu (7), Elyounoussi (5); Austin (5).
Substitutes: Redmond (6), Valery (6), Long (5).
Star Man - Oriol Romeu
Hojbjerg was Southampton's standout performer, but his game was overshadowed by the needless red card he picked up for a late tackle on Fernandinho.
Romeu also did a good job in the middle of the park and seemed more than happy to do the dirty work, mopping up loose balls and breaking up as many City attacks as possible. With Hojbjerg set to be suspended, the Spaniard will be taking on extra responsibility in the coming games.
Worst Player - Mauro Lemina
Lemina was hooked off at half-time and it is clear to see why. The midfielder seemed unsure of his role within the team and regularly failed to balance his offensive and defensive duties.
He was also rather lazy off the ball which is something Raplh Hasenhuttl is trying to cut out at Southampton.
Key Talking Point
As has been said so many times in the past, Premier League titles are never won in December, but they can certainly be lost.
Manchester City's recent defeats have put them at risk of slipping well behind Liverpool at the top of the Premier League table, so it was absolutely imperative they came away with nothing less than a convincing win.
Apart from the brief spell in which Southampton found their equaliser, they looked to be back to their usual selves, keeping possession with consummate ease and matching that with a clinical edge in the final third. It was the best possible way to prepare for their crucial match against Liverpool on Thursday.
Starting XI: Ederson (7), Danilo (6), Kompany (6), Laporte (6), Zinchenko (5); Fernandinho (6), Silva (7), Bernardo (7); Mahrez (5), Sterling (7), Aguero (7).
Substitutes: Jesus (6), Sane (N/A), Walker (N/A).
Star Man - Raheem Sterling
Sterling has been consistently superb for City so far this season and his performance in this one was no different.
He was a menace down the left-flank all afternoon, giving Southampton's young full-back Kayne Ramsay all sorts of problems. He was unfortunate not to end with more than just an assist to his name, but that doesn't detract away from how impressive he looked in the final third.
Sterling is the most improved player in the last year.— HH 🇳🇬 (@havehopehut) December 30, 2018
Not up for debate.
Pep turned Sterling into a really great player.🔥— Sphamandla Yoko (@Sir_Yoko) December 30, 2018
Worst Player - Oleksandr Zinchenko
Zinchenko has frequently been used as a makeshift left-back for City over the past two seasons, but his defensive frailties make him a serious liability.
The Ukranian was at fault for Southampton's goal and he was somewhat fortunate not to concede a penalty for bringing down Ward-Prowse moments afterwards.
Southampton make the difficult trip over to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea whilst Manchester City face a potentially season-defining match against Liverpool at the Ethiad on Thursday.