MANCHESTER City manager Manuel Pellegrini has hailed Frank Lampard as an inspired signing but again poured cold water on talk of extending the veteran midfielder’s loan spell.
Lampard came off the bench to score either side of Yaya Toure and Gael Clichy as 10-man City inflicted Southampton’s first home defeat of the season and reinvigorated their own Premier League title defence.
The former Chelsea favourite, 36, is due to link up with New York City FC – the champions’ sister club – in January, and Pellegrini is remaining tight-lipped on hopes of delaying Lampard’s departure.
“We’re going to have to make the best decision for him, for the club, for New York City, for everyone,” said the City boss. “I will continue to answer this question the same way: we are going to decide in December when we have to make the decision, what will happen with Frank.”
Lampard’s fifth goal of his loan spell helped City ease past Southampton into second place and take advantage of Chelsea’s draw at Sunderland on Saturday to cut the gap to the Blues to six points.
“Frank is not only a top player, he’s a great professional and a great person,” Pellegrini added. “I think Frank enjoys the way we play because he makes the difference in the last 25 to 30 metres, so he’s very happy here and we’re very happy with him.”
City should have led before Toure’s 51st-minute goal but Sergio Aguero was denied a clear penalty – and booked for diving – and then Toby Alderweireld blocked a Stevan Jovetic shot on the line.
Toure drilled home a low shot from the edge of the box from Aguero’s lay-off, although the visitors grip loosened when defender Eliaquim Mangala was sent off for a second booking.
Yet City increased their advantage 10 minutes from time when Lampard finished a sweeping break by ruthlessly lashing low past Fraser Forster from 20 yards.
Forster denied Aguero, who wasted a hat-trick of chances, when the striker darted clear but the Argentina star proved a more effective provider, his ball across the face of goal allowing Clichy to tuck his first City goal in 120 appearances into the roof of the net.