Steven Gerrard and Aston Villa will count themselves lucky to grab a point from the match against Manchester City at Villa Park. The visitors looked every bit the title favourites, apart from their inability to finish in the final third. City dominated the ball but, to their credit, Villa were able to keep the game in the balance and found an equaliser against the run of play.
You would be excused if you felt that City would make quick work of Villa in the run up. After all, Gerrard’s side were sat on 3 points after having lost 4 of their first 5 matches. Their only win had been at home against Everton. Meanwhile, City had dropped points only once so far, an away draw to Newcastle.
Dominant in possession, City probed a packed and well-organized Villa for almost the entirety of the first 45. While the shape of the Villans certainly frustrated the Sky Blues’ chances, City also seemed just an inch off perfect for much of the day. Passes into the box didn’t quite find their target. Crosses to the opposite field didn’t quite get over the defender. The halftime whistle came without too many threats either, but certainly, City would find a way in the second stanza.
And find a way they did. A mere 5 minutes after the second half began, City were once again forcing the issue in the Villa end. Moving the ball from one side of the pitch to the other until Bernardo Silva fed Kevin De Bruyne moving toward the end line on the right side. KDB turned his rub toward the centre of the box and lofted a cross to the far post. Soaring in, with left foot at the ready, Erling Haaland (50’) deposited his record-tying tenth goal of the season past Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez to put the Cityzens in front.
The flood gates would surely open now that Haaland had broken the seal over the Villa goal mouth. The chances for CIty were there throughout, and they didn’t stop after the first goal. KDB glanced a free kick from just outside the box off the crossbar and over for a goal kick. Just 6 more inches of bend and he would have easily beaten Martinez for the second.
More chances would be squandered. Passes that just missed the intended target. Breakthroughs called back for offside. City were just that little bit off from increasing the lead over their hosts, and the footballing fates made them pay for their inability to put another in the net.
In the 74th minute, right after Guardiola subbed Riyad Mahrez on for Silva, and very much against the run of play, Villa got the equaliser. The Man City back line couldn’t quite clear, and Douglas Luiz glanced a pass to Jacob Ramsey moving up the left side of the pitch. As he entered the penalty area, three City defenders converged on him. Ramsey laid the ball off to the centre of the 18-yard line. Jamaican international Leon Bailey ran onto it and unleashed a rocket that screamed passed Ederson and levelled the affair.
The final 16 minutes of the game, and 4 minutes of stoppage time, played out without much incident either way. Mahrez missed an open goal inside the last 10 minutes, but it wouldn’t have counted as Ilkay Gundogan was offside in the build-up. The clock clicked at what seemed like a rapid pace, and despite having held the ball for 73% of the match City would have to settle for the draw.
In all fairness to Villa, they played easily their best match of the year from a defensive standpoint. Time will tell if Gerrard will be able to use today as a turning point for his side, but the embattled manager surely has bought himself a little more time.
A disappointing result for City to be sure, but they remain unbeaten in the Premier League this term and their new striker is ticking all the boxes. The Mancunian Blues now turn their eyes toward the UEFA Champions League and a Tuesday trip to Spain to face Sevilla FC in Group G. Villa will be off until they travel to King Power Stadium on Saturday to face Leicester City.