Manchester City extended their lead at the top of the Premier League with a dominant display at Villa Park. Phil Foden and Rodri both scored for the blues to cancel out John McGinn’s early opener and both teams had a man sent off as the blues moved to within three wins of the Premier League title.
It had been a tough week for the blues, who were knocked out of the FA Cup by Chelsea, then faced a huge backlash from the faithful following the announcement of their intention to join the newly formed European Super League. The club, as well as five other Premier League teams, came in for heavy criticism, which prompted their withdrawal 48 hours later, with the club issuing an apology in writing to the supporters.
Before the match, manager Pep Guardiola had used his press conference to condemn the new league, saying there is not sport if success is guaranteed, and on pitch, City put that philosophy into practice with a display that had the opposition acknowledging just how good this team is.
Missing Kevin de Bruyne was a big blow to City but, as shown at the beginning of the year, the blues can indeed cope without their midfield kingpin, although it didn’t seem like it after just 21 seconds. Villa’s first attack of the game saw the first goal.
John Stones failed to intercept a long ball forward and Villa striker Ollie Watkins pounced, playing a ball into the area for McGinn to put the home side in front. It was a huge blow to City’s usually watertight defence and questions were asked about the players’ mentality, given the recent events.
But City responded to the goal by almost camping out in the Villa half but not getting close enough to the goal to cause any serious problems to the keeper. But that changed in the 22nd minute when a fine move ended with Foden equalising.
It started at the back with Ederson’s long ball forward that found Zinchenko, who in turn found Foden. The youngster’s ball to Riyad Mahrez saw the Algerian release Bernardo Silva down the right, and his cross was met by Foden, who passed the ball into the back of the net.
It was a superb team goal and one that was deserved given City’s play so far as they looked to recover from the shock of the early goal.
And the comeback was complete five minutes before half time when Rodri gave City the lead. The blues had been criticised by supporters in recent matches for pumping balls into the box while not having a target man to head them home. But on this occasion, City got it just right. Silva’s cross from the right following a City corner saw Rodri jump highest to glance his header over the keeper, the ball nestling in the back of the goal.
That should have been the last action of the half, however Stones had other ideas. A mis-timed but high challenge on Jacob Ramsey saw the referee initially issue a yellow card, but on intervention from VAR, and the ref checking the pitchside monitor, before rescinding the yellow and issuing a straight red.
The sending off only served to improve City as Villa struggled to take advantage pf the extra man as City produced a master-class in passing and weaving their way through the Villa defence, but on too many occasions, there was hardly ever a target inside the box. And when there was, the ball was just blocked out in time to prevent City from extending their lead.
The blues looked comfortable with ten men, however Villa evened up the numbers in the 57th minute. Matty Cash was booked for a challenge on Phil Foden, then wiped out the same player to receive his marching orders for a second bookable offence.
The blues never looked like conceding again, and City saw out the remainder of the match with no further addition to the scoreline, and go into Sunday’s League Cup Final knowing they are now just three wins from a third Premier League title in four years.
Final Score: Aston Villa 1-2 Manchester City