Southampton secured their Premier League status despite an injury time loss at home to Man City.
Gabriel Jesus’ late, late winner saw Pep Guardiola’s men earn 100 points in a season that will see them go down as one of the greatest Premier League sides of all time; yet for Saints, it will not matter one iota.
Following a turgid campaign, riddled with dreadful performances and even worse management, Southampton will be playing Premier League football next season.
Mark Hughes has saved Saints, after replacing one of the worst managers in living memory in Mauricio Pellegrino with a big summer ahead for Saint’s senior management team.
Ex-Saint Peter Crouch played a crucial part in sending Swansea down instead of Southampton, scoring the winner for Stoke but Saints did their bit today in a competent and organised display.
Southampton started much the better team, forcing Claudio Bravo into action multiple times.
Dusan Tadic - revitalised since Mark Hughes’ appointment - played an early ball to Charlie Austin saw the City goalkeeper racing off his line to smother the pass intended for his forward partner.
Jack Stephens then tested the Chilien stopper, striding forward, playing a one-two with Tadic before hitting a shot at the City ‘keeper which he fumbled but saved.
Saint’s quick free kick led to Austin firing over ten minutes in before Wesley Hoedt’s header crashed into the crossbar from Tadic’s corner.
Andy King’s goal for Swansea coincided with Man City asserting their dominance 14 minutes in, with Saints sitting deep and cutting off passing lines. Despite the pressure, they didn’t trouble the hosts.
Danilo fired well wide following a City corner and İlkay Gündoğan was similarly wasteful from the edge of the box, with City struggling to break an organised Saints down. Maya Yoshida nearly put his side in danger, ignoring Alex McCarthy’s shout and heading the ball into a dangerous area in his box - luckily, Hoedt hacked the ball away.
The Dutch centre half then put a teasing cross into Austin’s path 31 minutes in, which was well defended by City, as news circulated St Mary’s that Stoke had equalised against Swansea - meaning that Saints were comfortably avoiding relegation at Swansea’s defence.
By the time ex-Saint Crouch had put Stoke ahead, Saints were still on the back foot but looking solid in defence. Nathan Redmond’s poor pass behind Austin saw Raheem Sterling race towards the edge of Saint’s box and firing well over forty minutes in, and the St Mary’s faithful roared Stephens’ clearance with the ball leaving the ground.
Oriol Romeu fired just over following a good period of Saints play before half time arrived. Saints were all put there
City pegged Saints back early in the second half, with Kevin De Bruyne floating in a tantalising free kick that John Stones and Fernandinho came within inches of it turning home.
Sterling’s deflected shot struck the bar an hour in, as Man City pressed for a record-breaking 100 points in a Premier League season, yet Saints hung on well.
Southampton enjoyed good spells as the game wore on, safe in the knowledge that their Premier League status was secure. Ryan Bertrand twice strode down the left wing, forcing City to defend. The second chance saw substitute James Ward-Prowse loop a header towards the back post with Bravo collecting the ball.
The game petered out towards the finale, with teams exchanging possession and countering into the open spaces - both teams looking to enjoy their final Premier League minutes this term.
By the time the winner came - in the final minute of extra time - all that was to play for was Man City’s records. They secured it with a long ball up to Leroy Sane, who collected it superbly before dinking it over McCarthy who had raced off his line. A just reward for a brilliant season full of captivating football that has raised the standard of the Premier League.
Southampton fans and the board will breath a sigh of relief following a truly dreadful campaign in which they avoided dropping into the Championship by the narrowest of margins. Mistake have been made and it is vital that lessons are learnt.
That Mark Hughes - a manager not fitting the mould that has been sought in recent years - has saved them should give them cause to reconsider their approach to appointments. The Southampton Way needs renewing, beginning with with a manager who can galvanise the squad and inspire the fans. Hughes has earned a chance at that.
Saints: McCarthy; Cedric, Yoshida, Hoedt, Stephens, Bertrand(c) (McQueen 81); Romeu, Højbjerg, Tadić, Redmond (Ward-Prowse 64); Austin (Long 64).
Subs: Forster, McQueen, Pied, Sims, Ward-Prowse, Gabbiadini, Long.
Man City: Bravo; Danilo, Stones, Laporte, Delph (Jesus 59); Fernandinho (c), Gundogan (Foden 82), De Bruyne; Bernardo (Diaz 78), Sane, Sterling.
Subs: Ederson, Walker, Kompany, Zinchenko, Foden, Diaz, Jesus.