Southampton eventually succumbed to a 4-1 defeat at home to Manchester City on Sunday afternoon, bowing out of the FA Cup in the quarter-finals despite keeping pace with their opponents for an hour.
Buoyed by their unbeaten league record against City this season, Southampton started brightly, pressing feverishly and repeatedly testing their high defensive line with darts in behind.
Adam Armstrong beat that offside trap inside the opening ten minutes, scampering behind the navy blue backline to bobble a scuffed effort against the base of the post.
Within 100 seconds, Raheem Sterling emphatically punished Armstrong’s wastefulness. Gabriel Jesus burst onto Jack Stephens’ flailing attempt at a clearance, teeing up Sterling for a 12th-minute opener.
Ilkay Gundogan cracked a close-range effort off the post inside the opening half-hour. But Southampton hardly wilted after falling behind, picking their moments to swarm around the ball and tidily stringing together passing moves when they won it back.
Southampton snatched an equaliser with the last (mis-)kick before the break. Mohamed Elyounoussi made another run behind the opposition defence, playing a pass back across goal which trickled kindly off Aymeric Laporte’s outstretched boot.
A thoroughly watchable cup tie ebbed and flowed for large swathes – an anomaly for City who are used to dominating territory and chances. Jesus forced a penalty on the hour mark which Kevin De Bruyne converted to put City back ahead.
In a repeat of the first half, Southampton’s squandering at one end was punished by City at the other.
Moments after substitute Che Adams fired his one-on-one effort into Zack Steffen’s midriff, Phil Foden tried to take the leather off the ball with a blistering belter past a helpless Fraser Forster with 15 minutes to play.
At the culmination of an outrageous exchange between Joao Cancelo and Ilkay Gundogan, Foden’s fellow substitute Riyad Mahrez added a fourth for the Premier League leaders three minutes later.
As St Mary’s emptied, City had chances to add to their advantage, cruising through the closing stages of a match that was testing for long stretches to see out a 28th consecutive victory after scoring the game’s opening goal.
Fraser Forster (GK) – 6/10 – May well have done better with De Bruyne’s spot-kick but could hardly have seen Foden’s rasper.
Tino Livramento (RB) – 7/10 – Earned a foul within the opening ten seconds in a fitting start to a dogged, full-blooded performance.
Jack Stephens (CB) – 3/10 – Horribly slack shank gifted City an opener they don’t need any invitations to take.
Mohammed Salisu (CB) – 5/10 – A characteristically front-foot approach had a decidedly mixed success rate.
Kyle Walker-Peters (LB) – 7/10 – Aggressively pushed high up the pitch to capitalise upon the errors his teammates forced.
Stuart Armstrong (RM) – 7/10 – Floating around in menacing pockets of space between the lines, Armstrong was much more of a nuisance on the ball compared to his half-hearted attempts to win it back.
James Ward-Prowse (CM) – 7/10 – By his lofty standards, the Saints skipper’s set-piece delivery was somewhat lacking but the same could not be said for his scurrying off the ball.
Oriol Romeu (CM) – 7/10 – Played a number of penetrative pokes forward which Armstrong invariably squandered.
Mohamed Elyounoussi (LM) – 6/10 – Seemingly convinced that the equaliser he forced was offside, Elyounoussi couldn’t celebrate his deceptive work off the ball in real-time.
Shane Long (ST) – 6/10 – Selflessly scuttling around the top of the pitch, Long played the role of facilitator well.
Adam Armstrong (ST) – 4/10 – Delivered a snatched and uncertain performance of a striker desperately searching for a goal.
Che Adams (ST) – 4/10 – Tamely steered a one-v-one opportunity straight at Steffen.
Armando Broja (ST) – 5/10
Ibrahima Diallo (CM) – N/A
William Smallbone (LM) – N/A
Zack Steffen (GK) – 5/10 – Skittish with the ball at his feet especially under the pressure Southampton provided.
Kyle Walker (RB) – 7/10 – Sporadically demonstrated his incredible capacity to recover but was often in a starting position to avoid any sprints.
John Stones (CB) – 6/10 – Always seemed considerably calmer than everyone around him (on either team) however precarious the situation he found himself in was – for better or worse.
Aymeric Laporte (CB) – 5/10 – Had been repeatedly tested by Southampton’s nippy runs but misfortune more than incompetence explained his freak own goal.
Joao Cancelo (LB) – 8/10 – Untouchable going forward, every body-feint and flurry of feet was gullibly gobbled up by each set of red and white stripes that came his way.
Kevin De Bruyne (CM) – 6/10 – Drifting in and out of the game, when De Bruyne did get on the ball in the final third, panic invariably ensued.
Rodri (CM) – 5/10 – Forced to cover a lot more space as Southampton’s constant transitions unsettled City’s patient positional play.
Ilkay Gundogan (CM) – 7/10 – Down every cul-de-sac, Gundogan found a pair of open legs to pass the ball through.
Gabriel Jesus (RW) – 7/10 – Provided the opening goal and won the penalty De Bruyne converted with his last involvement before a swift substitution that didn’t reflect a lack of participation.
Jack Grealish (ST) – 6/10 – Flittering on the fringes of the contest, Grealish produced some lovely subtleties but slipped into the supporting role a little too much when passing up shooting chances.
Raheem Sterling (LW) – 7/10 – Repeatedly swapping positions with Grealish through the middle, Southampton desperately struggled to pin down a slippery Sterling.
Riyad Mahrez (RW) – 7/10 – Nearly hit the corner flag with a close-range volley but very much made up for that with City’s fourth.
Phil Foden (ST) – 7/10 – Produced an emphatic retort to Pep Guardiola’s decision to leave him on the bench.
Fernandinho (CM) – N/A
Oleksandr Zinchenko (LB) – N/A
Nathan Ake (CB) – N/A