Southampton 2 Man City 0: Premier League’s bottom side stun Carabao Cup favourites with first-half double

    PEP GUARDIOLA warned he had some “ridiculous ideas” up his sleeve for the Manchester derby on Saturday.

    If they are anything like the ones he employed here, he might want to rethink them.

    Sekou Mara scored his first Southampton goal

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    Sekou Mara scored his first Southampton goalCredit: Getty
    Moussa Djenepo curled in a second after spotting Stefan Ortega off his line

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    Moussa Djenepo curled in a second after spotting Stefan Ortega off his lineCredit: AFP
    Pep Guardiola's decision to field a weakened team backfired

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    Pep Guardiola’s decision to field a weakened team backfiredCredit: Reuters

    Guardiola is arguably the finest manager the Premier League has ever seen, though Red Devils’ supporters will no doubt quibble with that.

    Yet he does have the capacity to make the odd tactical tweak that come across as curious, if you’re being kind, and downright weird, if you’re not.

    Normally they happen in the Champions League but he chose to roll a few out in the Carabao Cup too.

    The first was to play Kyle Walker at centre-back, despite Manuel Akanji and Nathan Ake sitting on the bench.

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    It backfired as the England right-back was caught out for Southampton’s first goal when youngster Sekou Mara ran across him and brilliantly fired in his first goal in English football.

    Another was having back-up goalkeeper Stefan Ortega stand so far out of his goal.

    Everyone knows City play mesmerising, possession-based football and their twinkle-toed man between the sticks plays a vital part in that.

    Yet to have Ortega wander so far out of his box, as he did long before he was done by a stunning lob from Moussa Djenepo, seemed a gamble.

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    The German stopper was in his box when Djenepo struck his first goal since March 2021 but still a fair way off his line, so always ran the risk of someone catching him out.

    So it proved as Saints pulled off a huge shock, giving Guardiola plenty to stew over ahead of his side’s trip to Old Trafford on Saturday lunchtime.

    Take nothing away from Southampton though, they were outstanding.

    They fought for every ball, they were tactically superb, defensively heroic and took their chances clinically.

    It was the kind of performance that could give Nathan Jones’ tenure the jump-start it so badly needs after four straight league defeats which has left them rock bottom.

    The gloomy mood around the club, prior to this victory, was summed up by the half-hearted applause when new signing Carlos ‘Charly’ Alvarez was paraded before kick-off.

    Yet there were signs of life at the weekend as the South-Coast side came from behind to win at Crystal Palace in the FA Cup.

    And they actually have a decent record against Guardiola’s City, drawing twice last season and winning 1-0 in July 2020.

    City were limited to just one decent chance in the first half when Cole Palmer dispossessed Mohammed Salisu and teed up Ilkay Gundogan, who fired wide.

    But then it was the Southampton show, starting with a fine effort from centre-back Duje Caleta-Car which had Ortega scrambling.

    Che Adams ended a 29-game search for his first goal for the club when he netted a scorcher for that narrow victory over City during Project Restart three years ago.

    Mara’s wait for his maiden Saints strike was not quite so long at 16 matches, having arrived from Bordeaux in the summer.

    Yet the pure joy on his face as he smashed in Lyanco’s pinpoint cross at the near post, having escaped Walker, suggested it was worth the wait.

    Animated Jones was kicking every ball on the touchline and high-fived Lyanco in celebration.

    Self-deprecating fans taunted the champions with a chant of “How s*** must you be, we’re winning at home”.

    But the belief grew around the ground the more their organised side put Guardiola’s on the back foot.

    As Southampton went in for half-time to raucous applause, Guardiola knew something had to be done.

    He took action with a triple substitution bringing on Akanji and Ake for Walker and Sergio Gomez in defence, as well as Kevin De Bruyne for Palmer.

    When Julian Alvarez fired a decent opportunity wide of the far post, Guardiola went further as he replaced Jack Grealish for Erling Haaland.

    The Norwegian had been set for a two-game break ahead of the Manchester derby having sat out the 4-0 drubbing of Chelsea in the FA Cup on Sunday.

    But needs must, and Haaland was needed here.

    All City’s subs were used up by the 62nd minute as Kalvin Phillips’ first start was ended and Rodri introduced.

    Yet the nearest Haaland got to a 28th goal of the season was a half-chance which he hooked over.

    City’s No9 was then serenaded by cheeky home chants of “You’re just a s*** Rickie Lambert”.

    It was a night where nothing went right for City, who had won this competition six times in the last nine years.

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    Though you could not help but feel some of it was self-inflicted.

    Don’t be surprised if Guardiola resorts to tried and tested on Saturday in a bid to go from the ridiculous back to the sublime.

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