Pep Guardiola’s side came into the game having scored 17 goals in our previous four outings, but were frustrated by the Saints’ spirited performance at the Etihad Stadium.
In stark contrast to the midweek win over RB Leipzig, this was a relatively low-key affair, which hinged on two VAR decisions.
Raheem Sterling thought he had scored a 90th minute winner when he reacted quickest to turn in the rebound after substitute Phil Foden’s header was saved, but City’s joy proved short lived as the video check agreed the assistant referee had correctly flagged for offside.
It was agonising for the hosts, who had benefited from an earlier VAR ruling, which overturned a Kyle Walker red card and a penalty in Southampton’s favour after referee Jon Moss checked the pitch-side monitor and judged the right-back had not fouled Adam Armstrong as he darted into the box.
They were the major flashpoints in a contest in which both sides struggled to create clear cut chances.
Our best opportunity fell to Ilkay Gundogan, who headed over unmarked from six-yards after being picked out by Walker’s precise cross, whilst Jan Bednarek stuck his head in the way of a Gabriel Jesus effort which looked destined for the top corner.
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men were more than a match for City, defending stoically to limit the attacking threat of a side who had scored freely in recent weeks, but they too struggled to create anything meaningful.
Che Adams dragged an angled drive wide on what was a relatively comfortable afternoon for Ederson and it was the hosts who pushed hardest for a winner in the closing stages.
Sterling thought he had done so and the Etihad crowd also waited expectantly when Jack Grealish cut the ball back to De Bruyne late on, but the Belgian’s tame effort was blocked as City were left to settle for a point.
Goal glut grinds to a halt
That City were unable to break the deadlock was not for the want of trying.
Both sides played their part in making this an entertaining goalless draw and Southampton will be rightly pleased with their performance despite having to wait another week for a first win of the season.
Hasenhuttl’s men met the challenge of facing the champions head on, keeping possession well in spells to make it an even contest, but it was the home side who created more of the chances.
However, City were unable to find the fluency which had characterised our attacking play in the previous four games.
But, perhaps the clearest sign that it was not going to be City’s day was after a slick first half counter-attack.
Having regained possession in the opposition half, Sterling released Jesus down the right, but the Brazilian’s inviting cross into the six-yard box was just out of reach of Bernardo, who was sliding in for what would have been a trademark Guardiola goal.
Usually central to our play, those moments were few and far between as the stubborn Saints’ defence kept us at bay.
Pep guardiola: Usual process missing
“We didn’t win because the balls forward were not good. They had four or five in the box, they were there. [Not signing a striker] is not the reason [we didn’t score].
“It is because we didn’t do our process with the back four and Fernandinho. Those five players have to bring the ball forward for the others.
“Today we didn’t have the freshness in our mind. It is a pity. They had four or five chances and didn’t shoot much.
“We were there and could not be more clinical in the final third. It has to happen from behind and behind was not good.”
Raheem Sterling made his 200th Premier League appearance for City, the ninth player to reach that tally for the Club, and only the second Englishman after Joe Hart.
What it means
A draw moves City up to second in the Premier League, three points behind Liverpool, who beat Crystal Palace 3-0.
However, we could drop down the table by the end of this round of fixtures. Manchester United, Chelsea, Everton, Brighton and Hove Albion and Tottenham Hotspur could all leapfrog us if they take all three points in their games.
SUBS: Carson, Torres, Mbete, Palmer, Lavia, Wilson-Esbrand.
SOUTHAMPTON: McCarthy, Walker-Peters, Stephens (Salisu 37’), Romeu, Ward-Prowse (C), Armstrong, Adams (Broja 68’), Redmond, Livramento (Perraud 86’), Elyounoussi, Bednarek.
SUBS: Forster, Lyanco Djenepo, Tella, Diallo, Valery.
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