Aston Villa (1), Manchester City (0) – Our Villans dominate City and Bailey’s goal makes it 14 in a row

Wednesday, Dec 6th, 20:15 – Villa Park

Referee: John Brooks

Playing against legendary Manchester City did not seem to bother our Villans one iota!  City took the kick-off and passed back to Edison to launch the ball into the Villa half only for Torres to rise imperiously and head the ball to John McGinn.  Our captain won a throw-in, and we were off and running with the ball barely leaving the City half.

A pass from Diego Carlos to McGinn was instantly one-touched to Ollie Watkins racing beyond Dias.  It was a little heavy and an alert Ederson was off his line to gather.  When City tried to play out from the back they were hounded by our Villans’ high press.  McGinn, Watkins and Kamara each stopped them in their tracks.  It was McGinn, then, who carried the ball to the edge of the City penalty area, and switched to find Digne outside of him.  A Digne cross was headed clear but, between Luiz and Torres, possession was retrieved and, this time, Digne cut outside of Kyle Walker before lashing a shot aimed between the goalie and his near post.  It bulged the side-netting.  Villa fans were roaring.  There was less than three minutes gone and Villa had already established that they planned to win.

City did manage to get the ball into the Villa end, but still without possession.  When they pressed Torres near his own goal line, he calmly picked out McGinn who had found some space 30 yards away.  With John Stones closing in, our captain’s quick pirouette created enough space to arc a pass towards Watkins running by Dias. 

Ollie had made his move too early and would have been offside, but he and Leon Bailey recognised that the ball was perfect for our Jamaican international to run onto.  With Gvardiol chasing, Dias cutting over and Ederson cutting the angle, there was an option to square to Watkins, but Bailey, instead, hit a low shot to the goalie’s left that Ederson did well to get behind and force out for a corner.

From the corner, City headed clear but only as far as McGinn.  John avoided a tackle then espied an open Pau Torres inside the box.  He slid the ball to Pau who already has two goals, and Torres had enough composure to eye the top left corner and curve a shot in that direction.  Ederson was equal to the task as he flung himself to claw the shot away.  There was less than seven minutes gone and Ederson had already had to make two great saves.

Finally, City started to look like the team we have come to admire, zinging passes around with aplomb.  The only problem was that they could not get the final pass through Villa’s backline.  First, Digne anticipated a pass to Bernardo Silva on the right wing and was able to slide and clear for a throw-in.  Then, on the left Foden was set to aim a cross for Haaland only to have Ezri Konsa block it away.

When Foden next found himself in possession, he skipped inside and slid a perfect pass for Haaland to cut behind Carlos and get a shot away before Torres, assisting, could intercede.  Emi closed the angle and though the shot was well-hit, he was able to extend himself to his left and parry away.  The rebound only went as far as Silva on the right and the Portuguese international looped a pass back across the goal that Haaland was waiting for.  While the Norwegian was waiting, Martinez was hustling across his line and met the powerful header with two strong hands.  Torres completed the clearance.  That was in the 11th minute.

For a while the play remained in the middle of the field with both teams attempting to maintain possession.  Then Konsa saw that Bailey had some space in the middle of the park and him fed him a ball that Leon controlled in flight and, finding space just outside the box, hit with significant power and spin.  Ederson jumped and had to adjust to get a hand to the shot and divert it over the bar.  That would have beaten most normal goalies.  That was in the 22nd minute.

With Villa back in ascendancy they won a freekick on the left.  After McGinn performed his usual goalie distraction, the cross came to Konsa with Ederson out of position.  It only required a skim off the forehead for it to open the scoring. Easier said than done for a defender. Instead, Ezri’s header cleared the bar. 

Villa next came close to scoring twice more within a minute.  First, a series of passes that started with Martinez and ended with Digne passing to Bailey at Ederson’s left post was lifted over the bar.  Right after, Villa’s high-press yielded possession in the City penalty area only for Gvardiol to make a goal-saving tackle before Tielemans was able to slot it home.  Even Walker got caught as Watkins almost intercepted a pass back to his goalie.  The ex-Villan and England standout was starting to look quite ordinary like most of his teammates.

As an indication of how extraordinary Villa’s first-half superiority was, they matched the largest number of first-half shots against a City team managed by Guardiola (11) by the 37th minute.  Still, they had failed to score.  What they did succeed in doing was getting a desperate John Stones to bundle over John McGinn and get himself a yellow card.  This was not a normal Stones performance and the threat of potential expulsion only made it worse.

As the game went into first half injury-time, our Villans did establish how to beat Edison.  Digne pulled back a cross at the goal line and Luiz headed the cross into the City net off the inside of the left post only for the referee’s assistant to flag that Digne had failed to keep the ball in-play.  Somehow, the chalked-off goal did not feel like a big deal, so dominating had been our Villans.

Early in the second half, City achieved a degree of control over the game, being able to maintain possession for longer periods as long as they did not try to penetrate Villa’s defense.  With the 60-minute mark coming and going, the question was which team would bring on fresh legs.

Evidently, Emery was quite satisfied with the eleven he had on the field and believed that, sooner or later, they would make the breakthrough they needed to score.  The first close call of the second half occurred in the 64th minute.  Watkins intercepted Silva’s clearance and swung a cross over to McGinn on the edge of the box.  He feinted to hit a blast first time, then pulled the ball back and stepped into space.  Edison rushed off his line and John curved a right-footed shot around the goalie’s left arm.  Edison sprung to his left and got enough of a touch to divert the shot around the post.  McGinn was justly aggrieved that the referee missed the call and his team did not get the corner.

Guardiola realised that his team was running out of ideas and energy, and made the first substitutions (Nunes for Lewis, Kovačić for Alvarez, and Bobb for Foden) in the 68th minute.  Soon after, a pass to Tielemans was inadvertandly diverted to Bailey who was quicker than Gvardiol and Leon managed to get a step on his marker as he headed from the right wing toward the penalty area.  When confronted by Dias, he transferred control from his left foot to his right and shot with power aimed to the right of Edison only for Dias to extend a foot to block the shot.

With Edison leaning to the right, the attempted block turned out to be a perfect deflection, high to the goalie’s left and into the net.  Villa finally had their goal. Aston Villa 1, Manchester City 0 in the 74th minute in front of the Holte End and the Villa fans went wild.

Manchester City did immediately show more commitment. Still, they had difficulty mounting an attack. After a Walker cross was cut out by Torres, this exceptional distributor of the ball hit a bullet of a pass towards Ollie Watkins beyond the halfway line.  Competing with Ruben Dias he was able to cushion a header back to McGinn.  Despite being pressured by three City players, John was able to retain possession and calmly pass back to Torres, this time with lots of space and time.

Whenever City achieved possession, they were hounded every step of the way until they lost control. Then Villa ran them ragged around their own penalty area finally getting an opportunity to shoot in traffic.  It was Watkins who got in the shot only for John Stones to block and for the ball to bounce in no-man’s land.  Luiz beat Ederson by a step and got a foot on the ball just a few feet from the goal only for Edison to get a large mitt in the way and deflect it for a corner before we could add to our lead.

Soon after (in the 85th minute), Emery made his substitutions having got the lead and control of the game.  The cameo appearances gave Moreno, Diaby, Ramsey, and Durán an opportunity to share in the victory and get some valuable minutes playing at the highest level.  All looked very competent and ready to contribute in whatever capacity Emery decides upon.

Meanwhile, Douglas Luiz continued to demonstrate how fortunate our Villans were to get the Manchester City player thanks to a work permit problem.  In his four years, he has matured and gone from strength to strength.  He exemplifies why our Villans are able play at a level that is arguably the best in their history.

In the 86th minute, he still had the energy and skill to find space on the edge of the box to craft a “curler” around the outstretched dive of Edison only for it to rattle off the post and back into play. 

Even with an extra 6 minutes, our Villans were able to prevent City adding to their paltry number of two shots and they brought the game to a successful conclusion. The fans’ roar was deafening, and the team showed their appreciation doing a circuit, recognizing how big a factor this support is to the team’s success.

By beating City they ended a decade-long winless run in all competitions. 

Bring on Arsenal.

Aston Villa: Martínez, Konsa, Carlos, Torres, Digne (Moreno 90′), Bailey (Diaby 85′), Kamara, Luiz, McGinn, Tielemans (Ramsey 85′), Watkins (Durán 90′).

Unused Subs:  Marschall, Cash, Lenglet, Zaniolo, Dendoncker.

Man City: Ederson, Walker, Dias, Gvardiol, Stones, Akanji, Silva, Lewis (Nunes 68′), Álvarez (Kovacic 68′), Foden (Bobb 73′), Haaland.

Unused Subs:  Ortega, Carson, Phillips, Aké, Gómez.

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