After 81 frustrating minutes that saw City unjustly (or justly, depending on your preferences) kept out of the Villan goal, it was the much maligned (and still much talented) Yaya Toure who opened the scoring. Having received a short and safe pass from Fernando, Yaya looked up and saw ten yards of space: he dribbled forward and instead of being closed down, he was afforded a running lane by the lackadaisical marking of England internationals, Fabian Delph and Tom Cleverly. He took a few more steps before calmly side-footing a twenty yard effort that curled past Brad Guzan to give City all three points.
What happened in those five seconds is the very reason why all the (heavy) criticism of Yaya Toure is essentially meaningless: he has more than enough talent and ability to make up for the poor defensive efforts and the jarring dip in form from last season. Despite what might have been David Silva’s finest thirty minutes in a City shirt (more on that later) and the presence of Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko, it was a moment of magic – without the help of anyone else – by City’s much-maligned and now mercurial midfielder that won City the points. And that’s what Yaya is capable of; an absurd side footed finish that brought peace to the Etihad? Perhaps. But more importantly, it brought the hero of yesteryear, a few days of goodwill.
Now back to Silva, if you will. I’m struggling to remember a better Silvan performance than the thirty odd minutes between halftime and Yaya’s goal. He absolutely ran the show. When the defenders or Yaya needed a forward outlet, he found space between the lines to receive the pass; when the attack needed a moment of creativity or impetus, Merlin magically appeared with the ball at his feet, weaving between defenders or playing quick, one touch passes. He had four shots on goal in those 37 minutes and had any of those found the net, he’d have been rightly lauded as a giant among men. (As it is, I’ve seen several pieces/tweets on his genius since Saturday.)
He completed 93% of 29 attempted passes; his four shots were twice as many as Dzeko and Aguero attempted combined; and defensively he managed two interceptions while maintaining a 100% record for challenges and aerial duels. I won’t pretend to know how Squawka’s "Performance Score" is calculated, but even it recognized the enormity of Silva’s second half performance, especially for the final 25 or so minutes he was on the pitch.
In a match that Villa presented City an organized and defensively sound opposition, the difference came in the form of two players: one much maligned and much praised. But on Saturday, a different narrative came to the forefront: the return of one world-class player accompanied by his magical sidekick. And Villa, like us, could only sit back and watch.