Party time at Manchester

A two-goal sucker punch moments before half-time helped Manchester City beat Southampton 4-1 on Saturday and keep the pressure on at the top of the Premier League table, as Jay Rodriguez's World Cup hopes were hit by a knee injury.

A Rickie Lambert penalty cancelled out Yaya Toure's early goal from the spot, but late strikes to Samir Nasri and Edin Dzeko meant the 2011-12 champions went into the break with a two-goal lead, an advantage they extended through Stevan Jovetic with nine minutes left.

City moved to second place with 70 points, one behind Liverpool who play West Ham United on Sunday.

The result was harsh on eighth-placed Southampton who were threatening going forward before they conceded the two quick goals after leading scorer Rodriguez fell awkwardly on his right leg, forcing him to leave the pitch on a stretcher and putting his outside hopes of making England manager Roy Hodgson's World Cup 23-man squad in doubt.

"I don't remember Joe Hart making an important save," City manager Manuel Pellegrini told BT Sport after the match. "They had possession but no real chances to score.”

Pellegrini's side suffered shock defeats to Cardiff City and Aston Villa earlier in the season, but having largely shored up their defensive line they have not lost in the league since going down to Chelsea in early February.

They face a massive clash with Liverpool next weekend, and Pellegrini said their recent form gave them plenty of confidence heading into the final matches of the season. "The four teams have the same pressure until the end of the season – they all want to win the title," Pellegrini told the club website (www.mcfc.co.uk) after the match.

"Everyone knows that they must win – whether they know our result or not," he said.

"We just depend on ourselves until the end of the season – it's important to continue playing the way we did in the second half because I thought it was a great performance.

"I don't think that the second goal changed the game because we scored a few minutes later," the Chilean said.

Southampton found themselves on the back foot immediately after Jose Fonte brought down striker Dzeko after three minutes, with Ivorian Toure converting his sixth penalty from six attempts this season for his 18th goal overall.

The Saints did not let the disappointment affect them, and drew level through a penalty to Lambert, his 11th goal of the season, after Jack Cork was felled by Pablo Zabaleta on 36 minutes.

The visitors looked like they would reach the break deservedly level, but instead let their good work go to waste by allowing City to wrestle back control with two late strikes.

First, Frenchman Nasri sidefooted the ball home after Toure had released David Silva, despite suggestions the Spaniard was offside. In the fourth minute of added time owing to Rodriguez's injury, Dzeko headed into an empty net after Gazzaniga missed Aleksandar Kolarov's cross.

Substitute Jovetic added a final flourish for City, scoring a simple goal after Jesus Navas' cross evaded the poor Gazzaniga.

Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino said the failure to rule out the second goal for offside "killed" the game.

Mata brace

Manchester United, who face a daunting test in midweek against Bayern Munich, swept aside Newcastle United with an emphatic 4-0 win atNewcastle United, Juan Mata scoring twice and Javier Hernandez and Adnan Januzaj adding one each, while Fulham moved off the foot of the table with a 2-1 win at Aston Villa.

Kieran Richardson's stunning goal was cancelled out by Grant Holt, before Hugo Rodallega snatched a vital three points which allowed Fulham to take advantage of Cardiff's 3-0 home loss to Crystal Palace.

Jason Puncheon's two goals and Joe Ledley ensured Cardiff's miserable run under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer continued and Fulham moves above Cardiff and Sunderland on to 27 points.

Cardiff are 19th on 26 with Sunderland, who play Tottenham Hotspur on Monday, a further point back but with three matches in hand.

West Bromwich Albion, who finally appear to have hit form under Pepe Mel, beat Norwich City 1-0 and George Boyd's goal gave Hull City a 1-0 victory over Swansea City.

Meanwhile, championship side Leicester City gained promotion to the Premier League for the first time since 2004 after QPR and Derby County both lost on Saturday. Reuters

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