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Pep praises Southampton: Man City ‘couldn’t score and we nearly suffered’

Raheem Sterling's early strike was enough to lift Manchester City past a lively Southampton challenge at St. Mary's.

Pep Guardiola was glowing with praise for Southampton following Manchester City’s 1-0 draw at St. Mary’s on Saturday.

Raheem Sterling’s first-half goal was enough for Man City thanks to its improved defense but that didn’t make it any more comfortable for Guardiola (especially with the knowledge of what could await if Saints won a free kick).

[ MORE: Three things learned from Saints - Man City ]

The Catalan manager again had to lament his team’s inability to finish, but admitted that Ralph Hasenhuttl’s ideas make his club more difficult to handle than most others.
“We had the momentum in the second half, but we couldn’t score and we nearly suffered,” Guardiola said. “They put a lot of players inside; they provoke you to be narrow. It’s difficult. They don’t allow you to be compact, that’s why they are so good. That’s why they’re creating problems.

“They have the best free-kick taker I have seen in my life in Ward-Prowse. Their position in the table, Ralph is doing an excellent job.”

Guardiola again stressed that he understands why City cannot have fans but he’s clearly missing the atmosphere that a big crowd can create at a ground.

“It’s better,” Guardiola said. “Honestly it’s much better. Everyone agrees with this. Everyone agrees with this. Some clubs are lucky to play with fans. I would say that the priority is not this but the vaccine and say safe. All around the world, it’s killing every day, 300, 400 people it’s too much. Everyone wants fans, everyone wants normality, but social distance, masks, and be careful.”

City goes to Arsenal for a League Cup quarterfinal Tuesday before hosting Newcastle at the Etihad on Saturday. Everton and Chelsea away complete their Festive Fixture slate as City looks to keep leaders Liverpool in sight. The Reds have played one more match than City and have an eight-point lead on their rivals.

Follow @NicholasMendola