Pep Guardiola lauds Oleksandr Zinchenko as 'best player' on the pitch following Citizens victory at St Mary's
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Pep Guardiola lauds Oleksandr Zinchenko as 'best player' on the pitch following Citizens victory at St Mary's

Manchester City comfortably beat Southampton 3-1 in the south coast and Ukranian defender Aleks Zinchenko was the man to catch the eye of the Citizens boss.

Joshua Kerr

Oleksandr Zinchenko endured his fair share of influence on proceedings in Manchester City's 3-1 victory over Southampton as the Citizens closed the gap at the top of the Premier League to seven points.

The 22-year-old defender was responsible for the mistake that led to Southampton's equalising goal, but his overall performance delighted his manager, Guardiola.

Zinchenko was thrown in at the deep end in the absence of the suspended Fabian Delph. The stand-in left back was mugged in possession by Saints skipper Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg who thundered home to level the scoring, cancelling out David Silva's early opener.

Two quick-fire goals on the stroke of half-time that included a James Ward-Prowse own goal and a Sergio Aguero header sealed City's 15th league win of the season. However, it was Zinchenko's individual performance that most pleased Guardiola. 

"Mistakes are part of the game. The mistake from Aleks, he’s not in a bad position, but in England when you get the ball in the middle and you’re pressed you have to set the ball but he didn’t do that," the City boss explained in his post-match press conference.

"But Aleks was the best player on the pitch because after the mistake he never hid, he never said he didn’t want the ball. Before the cross to Sergio he made four or five actions to pass the ball and play.

"That’s what I’m most delighted with, mistakes are part of the game. It was two or three balls in that position in the second half where he set the ball, he did it. He is young, he will learn.

"I said to the players at half-time: 'Learn from Zinchenko today, guys.' Everybody can make a mistake but what he has done after that in a game where he can feel bad or guilty for the team, he was absolutely outstanding. One of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen."

Guardiola: City have to improve

The Ukranian defender responded brilliantly to respond to his early error by assisting Aguero's goal that definitively wrapped up proceedings and despite the Citizens returning to winning ways, Guardiola felt the score deficit could have been more in City's favour.

Despite having a substantial goal difference over league leaders Liverpool only a few weeks ago, City's recent poor form has allowed Jürgen Klopp's table-toppers to close the deficit and Guardiola believes the league champions have to improve if they are to become the first team to retain the Premier League since 2009.

"We missed a lot of chances. The game could’ve been six or seven. We have to score (more)," Guardiola added.

"Liverpool are not going to give us this amount of chances. I’ve always had this feeling. We scored 106 goals last season – the best ever – but I thought we had to score more.

"In every department, I think we can improve. I said that two months ago when everybody said how beautiful and how handsome we were. There were many things I liked today."