Seeking to avoid a fourth successive game without a win in the Premier League, reigning champions Manchester City travelled to Villa Park to test themselves against a high-flying Aston Villa side who had won an astonishing 13 consecutive games in a row at home.
AVL: Martinez, Konza, Digne, Carlos Torres, Bailey, Kamara, Luiz, McGinn, Tielemans, Watkins
MCI: Ederson, Walker, Dias, Gvardiol, Stones, Akanji, Silva, Lewis, Alvarez, Foden, Haaland
Only one point separated the two teams in the Premier League table ahead of the match, with the Citizens in third place – sitting just ahead of the Villans in fourth spot after 14 matches.
Unai Emery’s side showed their metal to come from behind twice on the weekend to earn a point on the South Coast in a 2-2 draw against Bournemouth. That same resolve and determination would be needed to claim anything against a City side capable of scoring at any moment.
The Citizens, meanwhile, would have been aggrieved to not pick up all three points against bogey side Tottenham on Sunday in the 3-3 draw at Etihad Stadium, as their their poor recent record of one win in five games against the Lilywhites continued.
Coming to to Villa Park these days is not an easy task, and without the suspended duo of Rodri and Jack Grealish and an injury to on-form winger Jeremy Doku, the Spaniard’s sides hopes of producing a result had taken a severe knock without a ball being kicked.Embed from Getty Images
City though would produce the better chances in the opening stages despite the home side enjoying the lion’s share of play. Argentinian goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez showed his World Cup winning qualities to produce a splendid double save from Erling Haaland after skilful work from Bernardo Silva had picked a lock in the Villa defence.
Villa would be buoyed by their fans’ vocal support though, and enthused by their slick passing, they would grow in confidence and would more than match their opposition. 13-goal forward Ollie Watkins would be a menace with his movement, prowling around the penalty area before linking with Irishman John McGinn who did well to test visiting goalkeeper Ederson.
Emery’s side’s would be dangerous on the counter attack with Leon Bailey proving to be a constant thorn in the side of the City defence. With every run would come a rising of the decibels amongst the home support, with Watkins and then Konza also coming close to breaking the deadlock. Neither though could get their efforts on target.
As half-time edged closer, so did Villa who thought they had taken the lead. A sweeping move resulted in Lucas Digne chipping a floated ball into the path of Douglas Luiz, arriving late into the penalty area. Whilst the Brazilian’s effort powered into the net, Frenchman Digne would be adjudged to have been out of play when the cross was made, much to the relief of the off-colour visitors.Embed from Getty Images
The second-half showed plenty of invention for Emery’s side full of confidence and looking for an upset. Their play would be mesmeric at times, but would lack a cutting edge to penetrate a vulnerable looking City backline.
As the half wore on and gaps started to show, the home side would crucially find an extra gear. McGinn would have a great chance after finding half a yard on the edge of the penalty area, but would only be able to shoot wide when well placed.
The pressure on the City goal would build and it would finally pay dividends as Bailey drove at the City defence, unleashing a deflected effort off the unlucky Ruben Dias to open the scoring.Embed from Getty Images
Rattled and lacking a rhythm in to their play, Guardiola’s side would struggle to make a response, as sensational one-touch football from Villa almost saw the home side double their lead. Luiz smashed the crossbar from the edge of the area after being given space to turn onto his stronger foot following City-esque tika-taka in midfield from Bailey and Tielemans.
With no response, it would be Villa who would take the three points to claim a famous victory ending a poor run of results in the last decade against their rivals. It’s a result that sees Villa leapfrog the Citizens to claim third place in the Premier League table.