Manchester City were held to a frustrating 0-0 draw against a spirited Southampton in a game filled with VAR drama on Saturday afternoon.

Southampton’s courageous and well-organized high block strongly controlled the ball inside Manchester City’s final third from the start, frustrating the hosts as they did enough to share the spoils against the defending champions. Pep Guardiola got the response from the fans who swarmed the Etihad in huge numbers but not so much from his players’ as the Citizens endured a frustrating afternoon lacking any intensity or creativity.

Southampton were buzzed at the opportunity to counter-attack City and looked threatening in the initial stages. At the hour mark, Walker was forced to rush after losing possession, brought Adam Armstrong down inside the box and was shown a red card. But VAR intervened and forwarded the referee to monitor, hence the decision was overturned.

City steadily grew into the game to find their footing and missing rhythm but weren’t able to find that spark and combination to unlock the Saints. As the game approached its closing stages, City pushed in desperation and looked to have snatched via Sterling, who scrambled the ball into the back of the net, only for his effort getting chalked off for offside.

It was hardly a convincing performance from the Sky Blues as they only had one shot on target. They looked disjointed and unimaginative to break the Southampton code. Pep Guardiola surely has work to do in the training ground based on a small sample of games so far. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Pep Guardiola’s men after a muted performance from them this afternoon.

Ederson Moraes: 6/10

He was called into action several times during the match but had to step out nearly alongside his centre backs to help in City push-up field and buildup from the back.

Kyle Walker: 5.5/10

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VAR may have bailed Walker out of the situation, but he was to be responsible for the makings of it; losing out the possession in a key area is nothing less than a blunder. Apart from that, he was solid throughout the game.

Ruben Dias: 6.5/10

Was tested quite a lot by Southampton’s buzzing attacks but stood firm and made key challenges and interceptions to deny Saints from taking the lead.

Nathan Ake: 7/10

Normally doesn’t get a lot of game time. But Ake started his second game in four days. He responded to the opportunity by producing a solid display at the back amidst a tough period for the Dutch international emotionally.

Joao Cancelo: 8/10

The Portuguese left-back was at his best and was influential at both ends of the pitch with his creativity and work rate. He was very solid defensively and finished the game with four tackles, two interceptions and won 3 aerial duels.

Bernardo Silva: 6/10

His work ethic was on point today, and he led the press from the front but attacking wise he couldn’t deliver much and ended with zero shots. He picked up those little pockets on the pitch to exploit but couldn’t link up well with Grealish as they have done in recent games.

Fernandinho: 5/10

Struggled against an energetic Saints midfield and was exposed on the turnover several times. He was better towards the end when the visitors had a positive spell; he played a part to halt them. Overall he looked quite rusty.

Ilkay Gundogan: 5/10

Had one of those afternoons to forget for the German international. He was ineffective, lacked composure and uncharacteristically gave the ball away far too often. However, thanks to his late surge, he had a few chances and arguably should have scored from a close-range header in the first half.

Gabriel Jesus: 6/10

Started the match in his newly preferred wide-forward role, he inspired some wonderful passages of play down the right side, but his crosses into the box weren’t up to mark. He lasted only 20 minutes into the second half before being hooked off. He needs to perform better if he wants to keep his place ahead of Riyad Mahrez.

Raheem Sterling: 5/10

He was given his first start in five league games and a lost opportunity for the England international. He was deployed in the centre-forward role and hardly made any impact. Sterling had a potential penalty call ignored in the second half when he went down in the opposition box, but the referee discarded and waved to continue the play.

Seemed to have clinched the winner in the added time by a tap-in from close-range after a scramble, but the goal was ruled out with VAR declaring it offside.

Jack Grealish: 8/10

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It’s remarkable how some pundits had doubts where he would fit in City’s star-studded first-team. He has slotted in seamlessly and established himself as a key player in the starting XI. He was the most dangerous player on the pitch today as he tried to take the game by the scruff of its neck by charging down the Saints backline but couldn’t force an opening.

SUBSTITUTES

Kevin De Bruyne: 6/10

He was called on to change the game and instantly became City’s focal point, but he wasted a late chance to grab all three points for his side.

Riyad Mahrez: 5/10

Not much impact after replacing Jesus.

Phil Foden: 6/10

Foden looked lively and brought urgency to City’s attacks. He nearly found the winner late in the game but was unfortunate to be called offside.

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