Saints’ three game unbeaten run came to an end as they lost 3-0 to Manchester City at St Mary’s.
City dominated possession throughout the game, but it was Saints who had the better chances in a goalless first half.
However, they were made to pay for failing to convert as City showed their ruthless side in the second period, with goals from Vincent Kompany, Leroy Sane and Sergio Aguero condemning Saints to a defeat which keeps them tenth.
Manchester City’s attacking threat was obvious from the moment the teamsheet came out with Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Leroy Sane, Kevin De Bruyne and Yaya Toure for Saints to deal with.
They were a handful from the kick-off, with Sergio Aguero going close twice in a matter of seconds early on.
His first chance saw him stretch for Sane’s right wing cross at the far post but he couldn’t direct it on target.
Aguero didn’t have to wait long for a better opening but this time having bought himself a yard of space in the area he shot low across goal but wide.
It was a hat-trick of missed chances for Aguero on nine minutes as he peeled off deep and volleyed a corner from just inside the area, but it was a tough chance and it was comfortably off target.
Saints took a while to get a spell of possession, but when they did they created a golden opportunity on 14 minutes.
Nathan Redmond fed the ball down the left to Manolo Gabbiadini, he cut it back to Dusan Tadic in space 12 yards out, but the Serbian skied his first time effort over the bar.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg became the first player in the book for an overenthusiastic challenge as he slid in and ploughed through the back of Silva.
As the half wore on City still bossed possession with Saints finding it hard to get any meaningful time on the ball.
However, Saints were doing a good job of containing City and their attacking threats. They looked a solid and compact unit, and were leaving little room between the lines for their opponents to exploit.
While City had a lot of the ball, Saints were restricting them to fairly harmless areas.
Cedric Soares was presented with an unlikely chance on 35 minutes as Claudio Bravo flapped at a cross and it fell to him. However, the right back’s half volley was not struck cleanly and City cleared the danger. Moments later Steven Davis headed over from James Ward-Prowse’s cross.
City were left with heads in hands on 36 minutes as Silva missed the target from just a few yards out at the far post after Aguero’s chipped cross deflected up to find him.
Pep Guardiola was adamant his side should have a penalty moments later as Sane went down trying to round the diving Fraser Forster, but referee Neil Swarbrick felt the keeper got the slightest of touches to the ball before making contact with the man, and replays suggested it was a fantastic decision.
Toure was the next to threaten but headed wide from a corner before Cedric went in the book for jumping into a tackle with Fernandinho.
Ryan Bertrand was lucky to escape without a card after a foul which saw him rake down the back of Aguero’s left calf.
Silva had the final sight at goal of the half but dragged it wide and it was goalless at the break.
There were sighters for both sides early in the second period with Toure’s shot guided towards Forster while Ward-Prowse curled a 20 yard free kick wide of the near post.
Forster was extended on 55 minutes as Jesus Navas struck a crisp shot from 25 yards out which the Saints keeper turned over the bar.
However, he was beaten from the corner as Silva whipped in an inswinger from the left and found Vincent Kompany. He had got ahead of Maya Yoshida and held off the defender to head downwards from six yards out.
It was central and bounced up almost straight at Forster but from close range he couldn’t quite get his left arm to it to bat it away.
Puel reacted by making a double change with Shane Long and Sofiane Boufal replacing Ward-Prowse and Gabbiadini, with the latter change greeted by boos from a section of Saints fans.
City were suddenly looking rampant and as if they wanted a second goal to give themselves a cushion. Kompany got in another shot in the area but it was blocked on the way to goal.
They came close again on 65 minutes as De Bruyne’s low centre was deflected goalwards by Yoshida. Forster got down to push the ball away but it fell to Silva whose follow-up shot was blocked by Jack Stephens.
Saints were lucky to escape as Boufal was caught dwelling on the ball by Silva, who set Aguero away. Thankfully Stephens was alert to the danger and did well to get a foot in at the crucial moment.
Yoshida could have equalised on 73 minutes as Saints had their first effort on target. He met a Tadic cross unmarked at the far post six yards out but guided his header straight at Bravo.
City wrapped it up on 77 minutes with a devastating counter attacking goal.
Saints were committed up field and City quickly worked the ball to Silva, who produced an instant pass to De Bruyne, who had the whole Saints half to run into.
He had Sane in support on his left and squared to his teammate who put a low finish past Forster for 2-0.
It got worse three minutes later as City added a third.
De Bruyne got to the left by-line and stood up a brilliant cross into the six yard box. Aguero got in between Cedric and Stephens and headed home from a couple of yards out.
Saints made one final change with Long replaced by Jay Rodriguez 22 minutes after coming on and exchanging what appeared words with Claude Puel and Eric Black before going down the tunnel.
It proved to be the last talking point of the match as City cruised to the final whistle and the three points.