Ralph Hasenhuttl hailed his side’s reaction to their 9-0 hammering against Leicester as they pushed Manchester City to the wire before suffering a late defeat at the Etihad Stadium.

Having had to apologise for their capitulation against the Foxes and donating a day’s wages to charity, the spotlight was on Saints and whether they would crumble again at City.

After two changed sides played out a 3-1 City win in the Carabao Cup in midweek, it was back to Premier League action as Saints ran the champions close with a committed and brave display.

James Ward-Prowse gave Saints a shock first half lead but, ultimately, they were undone by two second half goals with the winner coming with just six minutes remaining.

On this occasion, though, the performance was as important as the result for Hasenhuttl.

He said: “We had to show a reaction. Tuesday was the first step and we knew we had to do it better than on Tuesday because the team today was their first team, their ‘a’ team, with the best performing players from City.

“My squad was really unbelievably committed, really unbelievable defending following and investing so much in defending in our net and this was very difficult for Man City to create chances and they didn’t have a lot, only the end when we opened because we wanted to make the equaliser. Sure, they had a lot of possession, but this is normal.

“It is the only way we can play against such an opponent and we did it in a fantastic way and it’s a pity that we didn’t get more than only a few warm words but I think after the last week it was absolutely necessary to show such a reaction as a team.

“My players showed they care about what happened and it’s not about giving money back or saying sorry but not speaking and showing on the pitch and they showed and this is what I wanted to see and gives us a little hope for the future that when such an opponent has problems to score against us when we defend like this that any other opponent also has problems.

“This is something we need because we have conceded too many goals so far.”

When asked whether he ever doubted he would get the reaction he wanted, Hasenhuttl replied: “I hoped I would see this and I was sure after all the meetings we had and the work we did the last week there would be a reaction.

“To come here twice after losing 9-0 I think is not the easiest moment for a team but it was a chance to show up and they did and it was really a pity we didn’t get something for the amazing work we did.”