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Fowler lifts City as Anelka sits it out

Gerry Cox for Get Your Kits Out at the St Mary's Stadium
Saturday November 1, 2003
 

No fireworks in the tunnel, but hardly a sparkler on the pitch either, as goals from Robbie Fowler and Paulo Wanchope at the beginning and end of a disappointing game allowed Manchester City to move above Southampton, into fifth place.

The visit of Blackburn to St Mary's last week was notable for a confrontation between the rival management teams that is now under investigation by the FA. There was no repeat yesterday, but a bit of fighting spirit on the pitch would not have gone amiss, certainly from a Southampton side that lacked the characteristics that have taken them into the higher reaches of the Premiership.

Even Gordon Strachan kept his passions in check, limiting his post-match press conference to less than a minute rather than be too openly critical of his players.

'In football nothing has changed since they started playing,' he said. 'If you can control the ball and pass it, you have a good chance of winning and we did that today for only about half an hour. They did it far longer.

'We were one-dimensional and I don't know where that came from, but I will sort it out one way or another.'

And that was it, until Kevin Keegan entered to talk in glowing terms about his team and to dispel rumours of a row with Nicolas Anelka, City's leading goalscorer who was left out because of a slight calf strain despite pleading to play.

'Nicolas thought he was fit to play and I didn't, it's as simple as that,' said Keegan.

'There has been no bust-up, and there is no problem with Nicolas, he accepted it.'

Anelka need not have worried, unless he was concerned about losing his place in the longer term. In his absence, for the first time since joining City at the beginning of last season, his fellow forwards Fowler and Wanchope did what was asked of them.

Fowler has hardly been prolific since joining from Leeds United at the start of this year, but the striker has always had a sense of occasion. The game was barely a minute old when the former Liverpool man got a sniff of goal, running unchallenged before hitting a low shot from 20 yards that was tipped away for a corner by Paul Jones.

Southampton did not heed the danger because the move was duplicated two minutes later. This time the ball ended up in the back of the net. Fowler ran in from some distance without a challenge, and as the Southampton defence backed off, he hit a low shot with his left foot into the far corner of goal.

That should have kickstarted a real battle, but Southampton were poor, particularly going forward. James Beattie had an off day, failing to control the ball in front of goal and mis-hitting a volley, before effectively disappearing from view.

Kevin Phillips, returning from suspension, attempted to chip David Seaman from 35 yards but cleared the crossbar as well, and had a shot blocked after the former England goalkeeper had spilled a low cross.

Chris Marsden failed to punish a similar mistake in the second half as City gradually took control. After Fowler and Wanchope failed with headers from good positions, the Costa Rican sealed the points five minutes from time, running on to a Steve McManaman pass and thumping the ball high into the net.

'We were disgraceful when we lost here last season and we owed the fans honesty, effort and endeavour,' added Keegan.

Southampton: Jones, Dodd (Telfer 73), Michael Svensson, Lundekvam, Le Saux, Fernandes (McCann 57), Anders Svensson, Delap, Marsden, Beattie, Phillips (Ormerod 73).
Subs Not Used: Blayney, Higginbotham.

Booked: Marsden.

Man City: Seaman, Jihai, Dunne, Distin, Tarnat, Sinclair, Reyna, Barton, McManaman, Wanchope, Fowler (Sibierski 83).
Subs Not Used: Stuhr-Ellegaard, Sommeil, Bosvelt, Macken.

Booked: Dunne.

Attendance: 31,952

Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).                  BACK TO Manchester City               HOME PAGE