Manchester City 6 Southampton 1
This dismantling of Southampton illustrates how difficult dethroning Manchester City will surely be. From opening whistle to the end Pep Guardiola's supreme side made the contest a virtual duck-shoot on an afternoon when Raheem Sterling was sublime.
The forward scored twice and helped create three more and at 23 is only going to improve. So, too, a City whose prevailing characteristic is the embodiment of their manager’s relentlessness.
As occurs so often here City pinned their opponent back instantly from kick-off. A moment of mild panic from Saints in the area was followed a few moments later by a free-kick. It was hit in from the right by David Silva and though it came to nothing the terms between the sides were about to change.
This took six minutes and already cast the contest as a mismatch of Anthony Joshua versus junior-flyweight proportions. Leroy Sané was Guardiola's sole change from the XI that won at Wembley against Tottenham in their last league outing and now showed why.
After James Ward-Prowse stepped on the ball Sergio Agüero fed David Silva and his pass slid Sané in along the left. In a flash the ball was whipped in and a hapless Wesley Hoedt smashed home for an own goal.
Mark Hughes’s men were still reeling when the champions doubled their lead. This time Sterling was provider. The winger appeared to have overrun the ball but managed to turn it across goal and there was Agüero to notch a 150th Premier League strike.
The 30-year-old has achieved this in 217 appearances, second fastest only to Alan Shearer’s 212, and he had time to miss a golden chance for a second – he hit Alex McCarthy’s legs – before City went 3-0 ahead. Sterling and Sané were again to the fore: the former chipped towards the latter and when the ball bounced David Silva volleyed in for a fourth league goal this season.
City did not face a threat until the 26th minute and it proved an augury of Danny Ings's penalty strike moments later. When Shane Long crossed in, the visiting No 9 was unmarked but could not capitalise.
He was about to do better. When Ings raced on to a Ryan Bertrand pass along the left John Stones might have whacked clear. Instead, perhaps due to an Ederson call, he left it to the goalkeeper and when Ings ran on was pulled down by the Brazilian. The referee, Lee Mason, pointed to the spot and Ings converted for City to concede only a fourth goal in the league, and a first since Newcastle United scored here on September 1st.
As half-time approached the home side offered a telling sequence. This was a mesmerising game of passing that took place in the tightest of spaces inside Southampton's area. Sterling to Sané to Sterling to Sané. He now passed to Agüero who nutmegged Hoedt and found David Silva. He in turn found Sané who relayed the ball to Kyle Walker who finally took aim but to no avail.
Now, though, came further hurt for the visitors. Agüero picked Cedric Soares’s pocket and turned the ball in from the left. It came to Sterling and his miscontrol became a trick that gained space and time to collect a fifth of his league campaign.
Guardiola’s sobriquet might be Señor Relentless for his never-ending pursuit of excellence and Southampton witnessed this when City came straight at them at the second half’s start.
Yet Hughes’s side signalled they were not for giving up when roving forward moments later. Ward-Prowse blazed at Ederson, who spilled but recovered superbly to repel Ings. A further scare occurred when Ings’s header had to be stopped on the line by Ederson.
Guardiola made a move in switching the flanks of Sterling and Sané and just after the hour reward nearly came. Agüero fed Sané on the right, the No 19 skipped inside and let go a rocket that crashed off McCarthy’s right post. Sterling’s afternoon to remember became even better on 67 minutes when beating McCarthy for a second time.
By the close Sané had made it 6-1, City had increased their goal difference by five – they now have 32 goals in 11 matches – and signalled that they may be even better than last season’s record-breaking champion outfit. – Guardian service