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City manager shrugs off pep talk
City bounce back in style
City boss needs this win badly as Guardiola rumours swirl
MAN CITY 3
(Kevin de Bruyne 9, Fabian Delph 21, Aleksandar Kolarov 70)
(Shane Long 50)
Manchester City were teetering towards the brink of a crisis.
Back-to-back defeats by Liverpool and Juventus had manager Manuel Pellegrini on the ropes, as the team surrendered their pole positions in the English Premier League and Champions League group standings.
But, last night, City showed why it will take more than a couple of losses to derail their Premiership title charge.
With an arrogant display of stylish, attacking football, they blitzed Southampton at the Etihad Stadium to claim a 3-1 victory.
Pellegrini can finally breathe a little easier after three joyless weeks.
He needed the respite.
The rumours linking Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola to City was gathering momentum during those three matches (also 0-0 draw with Aston Villa) without a win.
Such speculation comes with the job, he said, just before this game.
The Chilean will be heartened by this performance.
The Saints got sucked into the Manchester vortex from the first whistle.
Raheem Sterling in the opening moments flashed a warning shot which Southampton goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg just about managed to gather.
City instantly smelt blood. So, they did away with the stalking and went straight for the throat.
Sterling and Kevin de Bruyne were unstoppable on the flanks.
Sergio Aguero looked in the mood and he was supported by a Yaya Toure on song.
Under pressure, Southampton's defence looked as sturdy as a wafer stick.
Their confidence vanished as swiftly as the rain disappeared into the wet, slippery turf.
Right back Maya Yoshida was the first to crack.
As Sterling closed down on him, the Japanese twisted himself into a knot, and the City attacker raced away with the ball.
All that was left for de Bruyne to do was to stab Sterling's excellent low cross to give City a 1-0 lead in the ninth minute.
Pellegrini wouldn't allow the tempo to slow down, so the hosts continued to rob Southampton of possession in all the danger areas.
A second goal appeared a matter of time.
Fabian Delph, making his first Premiership start for City, would claim it, after his well-struck shot went in off a deflection in the 21st minute.
Southampton went into break 2-0 down, morale shattered and will seemingly broken.
But Ronaldo Koeman had one more ace up his sleeve - Dusan Tadic.
His introduction triggered a brief revival for the visitors, as Tadic started to orchestrate the Southampton attacks with the flair and creativity that they were sorely lacking.
Five minutes after the break, they got themselves back into the game.
Shane Long, in a crowded penalty area, rose highest to head the ball home from a delicious cross by Sadio Mane to pull the scoreline back to 2-1.
But City wouldn't be rattled.
In the 70th minute, fullback Aleksandar Kolarov gave a shooting demonstration his left foot, one of the most lethal in the Premiership. The goal killed off all hopes of a Saints comeback.
With the victory, City's three-game winless spell came to an end.
Pellegrini knew what he was in for the moment he stepped through the Etihad Stadium gates in the summer of 2013.
At City, patience is a luxury. He has just averted a crisis.
But the uncertainty surrounding his future won't go away just yet.
Going by City's history, it won't, until he wins the whole lot.
As he said, this comes with the job.
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Sabah locals helping terror group to target tourists, says terrorism expert
An expert on terrorism has said that the Abu Sayyaf group (ASG) is getting help from locals and "assessment experts" or lookouts in Sabah.
They have been stationed at airports in the state to identify kidnapping targets among tourists, Mr Andrin Raj told the New Straits Times.
Mr Raj works with the governments and enforcement agencies in the region and advises them on combating terrorism.
He is also the South-east Asia regional director for the International Association of Counter terrorism and Security Professionals.
About two weeks ago, the Abu Sayyaf beheaded 39-year-old Malaysian Bernard Then.
Mr Then was kidnapped along with restaurant manager Thien Nyuk Fun, 50, from Ocean King Seafood Restaurant in Sandakan, Sabah, on May 15.
Ms Thien was released on Nov 8, The Star reported.
Mr Raj told the New Straits Times that Abu Sayyaf operatives have been planted in strategic areas in Sabah, ready to carry out kidnap-for-ransom assignments the minute they get the "go-ahead".
He said a Filipino group based in Sabah known as the "Knights of the Right Keeper" was supporting the Abu Sayyaf and helping it to carry out such activities.
"Besides having its operatives rooted in Sabah and areas outside the state, it also has a large network that allows it to tap critical information," he added.
Revealing the modus operandi of these operatives, Mr Raj said they would monitor arrivals and through their network of communications, identify potential victims.
Once identified, he said, the operatives would provide detailed information on the targeted tourists' place of stay and duration of stay as well as other information to facilitate the kidnapping.
Mr Raj says the group is targeting tourists to get international attention. "Malaysian victims are just 'collateral damage.'"
He also underlined the importance of thwarting kidnap attempts before they reach Malaysian soil.
"All maritime threats start from land and need to end on land. Many of these Filipinos are moving in and out of Sabah to trade with ease," he said.
"If the Malaysian authorities could confine trading groups in Sabah to designated areas, we can have better control of the movements in the state."
He also added that Malaysia and the Philippines should strive to strengthen border control and share intelligence.