SOUTHAMPTON: Southampton striker Dani Osvaldo´s stunning equaliser ensured Manchester City´s stuttering away form continued in a 1-1 draw at St Mary´s on Saturday.
Manuel Pellegrini´s side were seeking only their third away win of the Premier League season following a victory at West Bromwich Albion in midweek.
But City missed out on the chance to move to within three points of leaders Arsenal when injury-hit Southampton recovered after falling behind to Sergio Aguero´s ninth minute opener.
Osvaldo´s superb individual effort three minutes before the break secured a share of the spoils for the home side who recovered well after suffering three successive defeats. And City, now five points behind Arsenal who have a game in hand, can consider themselves fortunate to have escaped with a point after impressive Saints pressure almost brought a second half winner.
Lifted by the news Manchester United had suffered a second successive home defeat, Pellegrini´s men started the game clearly intent on taking full advantage of their rivals´ slip.
Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino had been forced to make changes to the side that unexpectedly lost at home to Aston Villa with Nathaniel Clyne and Victor Wanyama joining a growing injury list.
And, initially at least, the home side´s lack of cohesion was exposed by City.
Alvaro Negredo should have put the visitors ahead after just five minutes when he broke free into the Southampton area after being released by an Aguero flick.
The opportunity was missed when the Spaniard´s first touch allowed Paulo Gazzaniga — standing in for regular Saints keeper Artur Boruc who broke his hand at Chelsea six days previously — to smother.
But Pellegrini´s side didn´t have to wait long before they got another clear sight of goal and this time Aguero finished with ease after Aleksandar Kolarov´s low cross had been allowed to drift across the six yard box.
However, after withstanding heavy early pressure, Southampton began to exert some control and clawed their way back into the game.
Adam Lallana, the Saints captain, was key to their revival with the England forward´s confident forward running repeatedly unsettling the City defence.
And they finally tested visiting keeper Costel Pantilimon in the 29th minute when Jack Cork drilled in a low shot that forced the Romania international into a sharp save.Aguero, though, should have snuffed out the growing hope of a Southampton comeback two minutes later when he spurned a routine chance.
Yaya Toure´s searching crossfield ball allowed Pablo Zabaleta to get in behind the Southampton defence and pull the ball back for his Argentina team-mate, only for Aguero to sky his attempt on goal from just 12 yards out.
That provided a reminder of City´s threat, but the home were quickly back on the front foot, with left back Luke Shaw twice producing good crosses from the left flank, the second of which was headed narrowly wide by Calum Chambers.
The pressure was building on City but the way in which Saints drew level could not have been anticipated.
Osvaldo´s goal was a moment of high quality and created by the Italy international out of nothing after he ran from halfway.The forward first turned Vincent Kompany inside out and then did the same to Zabaleta before curling an angled shot over and beyond Pantilimon and into the top right hand corner of the net.
The tempo of the game increased after the break with both teams creating a succession of half chances without managing to claim a winning goal.Southampton centre back Jose Fonte came closest, heading over from James Ward-Prowse´s late free-kick. (AFP)