Manchester City 4-1 Aston Villa: Phil Foden takes home the match ball after netting stunning hat-trick

A stunning hat-trick from Phil Foden saw Manchester City close the gap on new Premier League leaders Arsenal, after their 2-0 victory over Luton Town. Despite giving Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne the night off, Pep Guardiola’s side’s sensational second-half spell saw the Villans unable to match the hosts’ intensity – ultimately succumbing to a 4-1 defeat at Etihad Stadium.

As it happened

Ominously for Villa, Manchester City were unbeaten in 13 head-to-head encounters at the Etihad Stadium, and it didn’t take long for the reigning Premier League champions to break the deadlock. Rodri exchanged a clinical set of passes with Jérémy Doku just outside the penalty area, allowing the sensational Spaniard to inconspicuously arrive, and venomously fire past Robin Olsen.

Embed from Getty Images

In response, visiting Villa – who were without top goalscorer Ollie Watkins due to a hamstring injury sustained in Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers – almost equalised immediately from the restart as Stefan Ortega was forced into making a stunning reflex save to keep out Jhon Durán’s acrobatic effort.

Despite that, absolutely nothing could prevent the deputising City keeper from seeing the match brought back to a level playing field in the 20th minute as Watkins’ direct replacement culminated an exquisite counter-attack from inside the Villans’ half by confidently slotting his on-point one-two with Morgan Rogers into the far corner of the net.

Olsen would brilliantly deny Julián Álvarez with an outstretched leg with the conclusion of the first half on the horizon – as without the Premier League’s leading goalscorer this season, Erling Haaland, and midfielder maestro Kevin De Bruyne – it seemed that Pep Guardiola would surely contemplate allowing two of the Citizens’ big guns to be unveiled in the second 45.

Nonetheless, City restored their lead in the first minute of stoppage-time as Phil Foden whipped an exquisitely-struck free-kick past Olsen; however, Villa manager Unai Emery will likely have been fuming after a notorious gap between Ezri Konsa and Nicolò Zaniolo appeared in the wall that allowed the strike to end up in the net.

Embed from Getty Images

Determined to avoid any villainous headaches in the second half, City flew out of the traps for the start of the second half, as a busy Olsen produced a hat-trick of saves to deny Doku, Bernando Silva and then the former again in the opening seven minutes.

However, Villa nearly equalised for a second time in Manchester as Ortega had to redirect Douglas Luiz’s effort out of play before pushing Clément Lenglet’s glancing header away from safety from the resulting corner. Any late concerns were sensationally put to bed by Foden in the space of an earth-shattering seven minutes, as firstly, awe-inspiring build-up play from Rodri allowed the unplayable midfielder to sublimely slot the ball into the far corner past Olsen’s statuesque figure.

Foden capped off an unforgettable night – with the match-ball now coming home with the England international – by completing his hat-trick in the 69th minute with a thunderously-struck strike, despite slipping over while hitting the ball, that left Olsen only able to admire, but probably not applaud, in front of the cameras. The undisputed man-of-the-match would rightly earn a well-deserved round of applause from the Etihad Stadium in the 80th minute as he was replaced by Oscar Bobb.

Embed from Getty Images

Meanwhile, in terms of who will take the plaudits of securing the final UEFA Champions League qualification position on offer to the Premier League, Villa remain two points ahead of Tottenham Hotspur – but with the latter having the potential advantage of a game in hand on Emery’s side.

The lineups

MCI: Ortega; Akanji, Dias, Lewis, Gvardiol; Rodri, Silva; Foden, Doku, Grealish; Álvarez

AVL: Olsen; Konsa, Lenglet, Carlos, Digne; Zaniolo, Iroegbunam, Luiz, Rogers; Diaby, Durán