Laporte calls on City to maintain their focus after slight slip-up

Aymeric Laporte says runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City must not lose focus as they head into a fortnight’s break on the back of dropping points for the first time since October.

City’s impressive winning run was halted at 12 top-flight games by Saturday’s frustrating 1-1 draw at Southampton.

Defender Laporte headed the visitors’ second-half equaliser but, despite dominating possession, they could not find a crucial second, with Kevin De Bruyne and substitute Gabriel Jesus each denied by the woodwork.

Pep Guardiola’s reigning champions do not return to action until an FA Cup fourth-round tie at home to Championship club Fulham on February 5th, while their next league outing comes four days later when Brentford visit the Etihad Stadium.

“I think we played really well and maybe deserved more, but if we don’t score more than one goal it’s very difficult,” Laporte said. “We have to stay focused and keep doing like we have the last few weeks. We’ve done a great job, now we focus on the next one.

“We have to work a little bit more on other things but this is the way we have to play. Sometimes you win when you don’t deserve it and we got a point when we maybe deserved a little bit more.”

Spain international Laporte was sent off the last time City failed to win in the league – a shock 2-0 loss to Crystal Palace almost three months ago.

On this occasion, the centre-back headed home a delightful De Bruyne free-kick with 25 minutes remaining to claim his third goal of the season.

It was the second time this season that City failed to beat Saints following a 0-0 draw in September, with Laporte pointing to the size of the St Mary’s Stadium pitch as a contributing factor.

“They have good players and the pitch is small, so for us it is a little bit more difficult,” continued the 27-year-old.

Small pitch

“The small pitch makes them arrive quicker to different positions, so not big spaces to play inside and outside, we struggled a little bit in the beginning. In the end we managed the game well and I think we could have scored more. We couldn’t win but we are happy because we have done a great job.”

Kyle Walker-Peters fired mid-table Southampton into a seventh-minute lead with his maiden Premier League goal, while Armando Broja had a strike disallowed for offside and also headed against a post.

Midfielder Oriol Romeu, who made his 200th Premier League appearance for Saints, says Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men are brimming with confidence.

“We feel strong now. We feel like we can compete against anyone,” the 30-year-old Spaniard told the club website.

“This team [City] was coming from an amazing run and I don’t think they played badly, they showed their best performance. They came with the best players and we managed to keep them a bit quiet. At the moment, we’re competing really well.

“We also know how demanding it is, especially this league. You cannot stop. You have to keep working hard and keep looking after yourself.”

Speaking about his milestone outing, the former Chelsea player said: “It’s a lot of games and something I never expected when I moved to Southampton, so I’m really pleased.

“Hopefully there’s more to come, I want to keep enjoying and keep being there for the team and look after myself.”

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