Ruben Dias and Bernardo Silva were on target as a depleted Manchester City beat Aston Villa 2-1 at Villa Park on Wednesday night, as the blues kept up the pressure on Chelsea and Liverpool at the top of the table.
The blues were missing several key players, notably in defence where Kyle Walker and John Stones were absent, while Aymeric Laporte was suspended. City were also without Kevin de Bruyne, Ferran Torres, Ilkay Gundogan, while Jack Grealish and Phil Foden started on the bench.
Before the match, manager Pep Guardiola said the blues were undergoing a ‘player emergency,’ however, it didn’t stop the blues from dominating the first half in which they could have been out of sight.
City were all over Villa from the start with Joao Cancelo forcing the keeper into a safe in the first minute. The blues had had a couple of further chances before the ten-minute mark as they exerted dominance over the Midlands side.
Villa came back into the match and had a chance on 16 minutes when Emiliano Buendía had a shot blocked. That chance lifted the crowd, but their hopes would soon be dashed by Dias.
City were enjoying success along the left flank and when Raheem Sterling got in again behind the defence, there was only going to one outcome, even if it was from an unfamiliar source. Sterling’s cutback found Dias on the edge of the box and powerful left foot shot flew into the back of the goal to give City the lead.
The blues continued to press Villa back and keep the initiative and it was no surprise when City went 2-0 up just before half time. But it was the manner in which the goal was scored that was so impressive.
City broke up a Villa attack and the ball fell to Fernandinho. His long ball forward released Gabriel Jesus, whose pinpoint cross was sumptuously volleyed home by Silva to increase City’s lead.
Villa have looked a new team since Steven Gerrard replaced Dean Smith, and his half-time talk seemed to inspire the home side as they forced their way back into the game. Ollie Watkins scored two minutes into the second half to give the home side hope and made City keeper Ederson wait another few days for his 100th clean sheet.
Villa pressed a little more in search of the equaliser but couldn’t force another way through the City defence.
Jack Grealish made an appearance from the substitutes bench to a mixture of boos and applause from the home fans, and he seemed to enjoy the occasion, although the home fans were delighted when one of his first attempted passes was overhit and went straight out of play.
With Liverpool and Chelsea also winning their matches, it was a vital three points for the blues, with Guardiola saying his team are up for the title challenge.
City next travel to Watford for a 1730 kick-off at Vicarage Road on Saturday, before travelling to Germany and a final Champions League tie at RB Leipzig.
Final Score: Aston Villa 1-2 Manchester City