City Stalemate At St Mary's
City's last visit to St Mary's. Let's hope it's not as boring on Saturday. 2004/5 Southampton 0 Manchester City 0SOUTHAMPTON: Niemi, Nilsson, Lundekvam, Jakobsson, Le Saux (Van Damme 45), Fernandes (McCann 67), Delap, Prutton, Anders Svensson, Phillips, Beattie (Crouch 18).Subs Not Used: Blayney, Kenton. MAN CITY: James, Mills, Distin, Dunne, Thatcher, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Barton, Bosvelt, Jihai, Anelka, Macken.Subs Not Used: McManaman, Bradley Wright-Phillips, Sommeil, Flood, Waterreus. Att: 28,605
Dozens of chances but no goals, no bookings and not very much Premiership quality as Southampton and Manchester City both missed an opportunity to put on a goal-feast at St Mary's.
But Saints' biggest miss of all could be star striker James Beattie, who limped off to hospital after only 16 minutes with a suspected broken toe.
How many would he have scored? Not as many as he would have playing for City.
They created the bulk of the chances but, in the end, were undone by the selfish streak of French striker Nicolas Anelka.
Trying to notch his sixth goal of the season 12 minutes from time, the former Arsenal, Liverpool and Real Madrid star shot for goal and had his effort blocked when team-mate Joey Barton was standing unmarked in a much better position.
Yet in the end, City were fortunate to survive themselves after Saints substitutes Neil McCann and Peter Crouch had spurned golden close-range opportunities.
McCann failed to hit the target after Kevin Phillips set him up and then Crouch, Beattie's substitute, put a free header straight at David James from the Scot's fine cross.
A pair of goalline clearances by David Prutton - denying headers by defenders Sylvain Distin and Richard Dunne - kept Saints alive even before Beattie's premature exit.
And the crowd almost lost count of City's other near misses in the rest of the first half.
Dunne headed over, Ben Thatcher fired over - from a free kick - and Anelka sidefooted a Shaun Wright-Phillips cross wide as Southampton surrendered a litany of set-pieces, including nine first-half corners, through their massive inferiority in the air.
For a while Phillips seemed to transform the home team with a low shot that forced urgent action from the hitherto unemployed James and for a while Saints laid siege to the City goal.
Danny Mills was fully stretched to deal with a Fabrice Fernandes cross that had Crouch leaping all over the defender.
Although he had Jon Macken and Wright-Phillips for support, Anelka gave the impression of a one-man forward line, wanting to create everything himself.
The Saints defence opened up when he toed the ball past Claus Lundekvam and set off for goal, but Andreas Jakobsson got back to cover at the expense of a corner - which, of course, Anelka took.
It was the eighth for City already - without reply - and they really should have taken the lead in the 35th minute. Joey Barton's through-pass split the defence and Sun Jihai had only the keeper to beat but scuffed his shot across the goalmouth.
Only a minute earlier Dunne's half-volley was goalbound until Anders Svensson cleared away.
Saints were certainly fortunate to survive but then suddenly Rory Delap and Jakobsson had goalbound efforts blocked and James had to fall on a header by Phillips.
But Southampton had two more great escapes in the closing minutes of the half, first when Barton and Wright-Phillips had shots charged down, both claiming handball but failing to move referee Uriah Rennie. Then when Sun Jihai's flying header sailed wide.
The second half promised more of the same. Wright-Phillips shot just wide on the turn when fed by the industrious Barton and Svensson's free-kick from 30 yards at the other end flew inches over.
But we had to wait until the last 12 minutes for the next nearest thing to a goal - and there were plenty.
Anelka's greed got the better of him when he ran onto Macken's pass and had a shot blocked when Barton was unmarked in a much better position.
Then McCann failed to put away Phillips' inviting pass after Distin had slipped on the halfway line trying to put a half-cleared corner back in to the Saints goalmouth.
It would have been ironic had City's 14th corner of a sometimes one-sided match been the prelude to their downfall but in the end they had other reasons to be thankful for goalless survival themselves, not least Crouch's free header straight at James when McCann almost made up for his own earlier miss with a brilliant cross.
Source: Manchester City MAD
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