Discussions on the way back from Ibiza had this game a nailed on 0-0 draw. It was potentially a difficult fixture given the back to back defeats we had suffered, Villa's decent form and of course the cursed international break which does not help club managers one single bit.
A surprise of sorts with Villa nemesis Darius Vassell recalled to the starting line-up with Stephen Ireland - presumably either in detention or the corner with a dunces hat on for his classic schoolboy excuse, missing out. Richard Dunne's absence meant a recall for Nedum Onouha and the first time at Eastlands that a City side did not feature a player who had played for the club at Maine Road.
The game itself. Well, we keep our excellent home record going and we probably deserved the victory despite allowing too much space to our opponents and perhaps riding our luck at times as we allowed Villa too many opportunities - but fortunately Carew was in Tevez mode and Agbhonlahor and Young - although they have pace to kill for, looked lost when they had to do something with the ball. Kaspar the flapper is starting to concern me and could have gifted a couple of goals with his mis-timed moves.
I thought we played the crisper, sharper football with Hamman again looking assured and allowing Johnson - making the Barton deal look better and better, to continually break forward and link well with Elano - who, whilst showing some great glimpses still needs time to adjust and Petrov - who is suffering from nothing seemingly going his way.
A criticism of Eriksson though is that I would have preferred Onouha partnered alongside Richards in the centre as I thought he and Corluka were in the wrong positions for there strengths, and also the persistence of playing Mpenza. Perhaps I am missing the unseen 'dirty' work he is doing on behalf of the team but to me he looks to be uncomfortable up there playing as a sole striker (in contrast to how well he linked with Bianchi at Bristol City), at times flailing around like a rodeo bull whilst Bianchi offered much, much more during his (again) limited action.
But, another three points to the total and if the 'Lucky Sven' tag has followed him to Manchester then I am not one to argue. It was a good win bearing in mind it would have been three successive defeats if we had lost and undone the good work from the opening three games.
Twelve points from four games is a decent haul and prior to the start of the season I thought if we could reach twenty after ten games we could be well set to push for a European place.
So far, so good.Ratings:
Schmeichel - 5. Didn't look hi smost assured.
Onouha - 6. Solid but more comfortable in the centre.
Richards - 6. Perhaps the internationals had took a lot out of him.
Corluka - 6. Struggled at times with Carew.
Garrido - 7. Looks to have real quality.
Hamman - 7. Another competent display.
Vassell - 6. Filled in decently.
Petrov - 7. Trying hard but not much luck.
Elano - 7. Some nice touches and good link man.
Johnson - 8. Unlucky not to get a second and getting better with each game.
Mpenza - 6. Struggles in the lone striker role.
Ball - 6. The Eriksson late defensive substitute.
Bianchi - 7. Unlucky not to score late on.
Sun Jihai 6- Fairly solid.mcfctv.com highlights