This was Villa’s first Premier League game since the defeat at Old Trafford on New Years Day, as a result of a COVID outbreak shutting down Bodymoor Heath, resulting in every member of the senior team going into self-isolation. Considering this, the display from the team on Wednesday night especially defensively was nothing short of extraordinary – even if the game did go on to end in defeat. Before we go onto the chances and the controversies that occurred, let’s go through the teams that started the match.
Manchester City XI:
Aston Villa XI:
The game was frantic from the first minute, and the end-to-end football meant that chances were certainly not at a premium, although most of the chances came for the hosts – who’s efforts were thwarted on every occasion by a determined and frankly excellent Villa defence with them all putting in important blocks and challenges.
City were relentless right from the off, and a glorious opening came for City on the 4th minute mark when Bernardo Silva brought a wonderful save from Emi Martinez, the subsequent clearance meant that parity was maintained with Silva perhaps wondering how he had not put his side ahead early on. This was, overall, an excellent game as both sides were showing intent going forward – and since the hosts were dominating possession Villa had to try and pick their moments going forward and attempt to take any chances that came from those counter attacks.
Just after the half hour mark, City were continuing to pile on the pressure and had two more excellent chances to take the lead with shots from De Bruyne (where Mings produced a great block) and Rodri failing to find the back of the net with a shot, as it turns out, deflected off his own teammate, Sterling. Villa were finding chances hard to come by under this relentless pressure – but perhaps the biggest chance that presented itself for Dean Smith’s side came on a breakaway, with returning Ross Barkley driving forward with the ball, only to see his effort get deflected and go out for a corner which came to nothing. City had their final chance of the opening 45 minutes through Phil Foden who took a shot at Martinez’s goal following a great pass from De Bruyne, again Foden also his shot blocked by the Villa defence, this time by Matty Cash. Half time came with the game, somehow, goalless.
The Villa team put a valiant effort in the first half with key tackles and blocks by every single player in the Villa back-line and although City perhaps deserved to be ahead, it was to the immense credit to the Villa defence that the deadlock had not already been broken. This was especially impressive when you consider that this was the first game back in weeks combined with the players self-isolating and training at home.
Now, onto the second half.
Villa’s first chance of the second half came when a quick kick from Martinez landed at the feet of Bertrand Traore who took a delightful touch to beat the City defender and ran towards goal, but due to the lack of attacking support, Traore took the shot on himself, he saw his effort claimed by Ederson. The hosts then had a good chance to take the lead soon after, but Cancelo’s effort only grazed the crossbar. Unbelievably, the score was still 0-0. Minutes later Gündogan’s effort from close range somehow did not find the back of Villa’s net and Villa managed to clear once again – parity, somehow had been maintained despite the efforts and chances falling to City.
Now for the controversy – Rodri came back from what looked to be an offside position to challenge Mings and won the ball for his team, that move ended with Bernardo Silva curling an effort into the top corner to give City a deserved lead. Villa players, staff and fans were in a collective state of disbelief as they all thought the goal should not have stood due to Rodri being in an offside position before winning the ball that led to the goal. Dean Smith was subsequently sent off for his protests against the decision. 1-0 to the hosts.
Emi Martinez then made a fantastic save from Cancelo’s strike to keep the score at 1-0 and give Villa a chance, albeit seemingly slim, to take a point. Unfortunately, these hopes were dashed when Cash was adjudged to have handled the ball in the penalty box resulting in City being given the penalty and a chance to double their advantage. Ilkay Gündogan then managed to score the resulting penalty to put the result beyond doubt. There has also been some controversy attached to the awarding of the penalty, with some people questioning whether Cash had time to move his hands out of the way given the pace and the range of the shot.
The match ended with a 2-0 win for Pep Guardiola’s City in what was, in the end a deserved three points for the blue half of Manchester. Despite the valiant and admirable efforts from the Villa team, their second consecutive league match in Manchester ended in defeat – this was a match though that the Villa players can take a lot of heart and spirit from. Onto Newcastle!
Thanks for reading, Adam.
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