Three-star Man City see off Villa to close gap on Liverpool


Three-star Man City see off Villa to close gap on Liverpool

In Summary

  • Manchester City cut Liverpool's lead at the top of the Premier League table to three points after seeing off a determined Aston Villa side with three second-half goals.

  • Liverpool can restore their six-point advantage if they beat Tottenham on Sunday but, after dropping points last weekend, the Reds go into that game knowing they have the defending champions breathing down their neck.

  • But while this ended up being a routine win for Pep Guardiola's side, they had to work hard and wait to break down a well-organised Villa side.

Manchester City cut Liverpool’s lead at the top of the Premier League table to three points after seeing off a determined Aston Villa side with three second-half goals.

Liverpool can restore their six-point advantage if they beat Tottenham on Sunday but, after dropping points last weekend, the Reds go into that game knowing they have the defending champions breathing down their neck.

But while this ended up being a routine win for Pep Guardiola’s side, they had to work hard and wait to break down a well-organised Villa side.

The visitors had largely frustrated City in the first half but their resistance lasted for only 20 seconds after the restart.

After Villa squandered possession from their own kick-off, Ederson’s long punt forward was flicked on by Gabriel Jesus and into the path of Sterling, who made no mistake.

Jesus should have made it 2-0 soon afterwards when a mistake by Bjorn Engels left him clean through, but a combination of a Tom Heaton save and a brilliant goal-line clearance by Tyrone Mings denied him.

City had to wait until the 65th minute for their second goal, which was eventually awarded to Kevin de Bruyne after a long delay for a VAR decision.

It was unclear at first glance whether David Silva or Raheem Sterling, who would have been offside from a Silva touch, had got a deflection on De Bruyne’s wicked curling cross but it was ruled it had gone straight in and was allowed to stand.

Ilkay Gundogan made absolutely sure of the points a few moments later, when Fernandinho’s shot was cleared into his path, and he expertly adjusted his body to put away a fine first-time finish.

The hosts finished the game with 10 men after Fernandinho was shown a second yellow card.

Villa work hard but Grealish fails to shine

Villa came to a sodden Etihad Stadium after taking seven points from their previous three games, and with the message from their manager Dean Smith that City were “not superhuman” and they had nothing to fear.

They did more than just keep City quiet in a tight opening period, with John McGinn bringing a fine fingertip stop from Ederson – the Scot also went close to a consolation before the end when he hit the post after the City keeper had denied Douglas Luiz.

The only slight disappointment from Villa’s point of view was that they did not see more of Jack Grealish with the ball at his feet in the City half, the midfielder’s role here involving rather more defensive duties.

There were still some neat passes and a couple of trademark flashes of his quick feet that saw the away fans break into chants of ‘Super Jack’, but he did not create a single chance or do much to back up his claims this week that he wants a senior England call-up.

Guardiola has more defensive issues

Fernandinho’s late dismissal gives Guardiola another problem in the centre of his defence, with the Brazilian set to miss next week’s game against Southampton while he serves his suspension.

The 34-year-old has been the only real fixture in City’s defence in recent weeks and, although he will be back for the crucial trip to play Liverpool at Anfield on 10 November, his absence means Guardiola will be forced into another reshuffle in the meantime.

With Aymeric Laporte out until the new year and the versatile Rodri recently sidelined for up to a month, it was a boost for City that John Stones was fit enough to face Villa for his first start since 14 September, although his mistake to gift McGinn possession for his early chance was hardly a reassuring sight.

Guardiola also has Nicolas Otamendi available, with the Argentine left on the bench on Saturday, but he and Stones have not played together since City’s capitulation against Norwich at Carrow Road.

Whatever combination the City manager goes for next, it seems his search for a consistent line-up at the back will go on for a few more weeks.

Courtesy- BBC Online

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