Poor officiating is once again the reason that a strong Aston Villa performance has meant nothing.
Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy
Aston Villa returned to Premier League action this evening after a 19-day break due to a COVID-19 outbreak at Bodymoor Heath – returning to action against a red-hot Manchester City side.
Manchester City were presented with an opportunity within the first three minutes as Bernardo Silva latched onto a ball at the near post which Emiliano Martinez was wise to and able to block – before Matty Cash cleared the ball from the goalmouth.
Dean Smith’s side had a few opportunities to break forward in the opening ten minutes – the best coming as Ross Barkley and Ollie Watkins broke against City’s defence, but Barkley couldn’t find the pass he was looking for towards Jack Grealish and the chance went missing.
The game lulled for a large period, but both sides were still finding chances in their opposition’s final third. Just before the half hour mark, Kyle Walker was replaced by Oleksandr Zinchenko after he had been battling with a hamstring issue for a number of minutes.
Ross Barkley forced Ederson into a simple save ten minutes before the end of the half with a curling effort from the edge of the box.
In added time in the first half, Phil Foden found himself at the end of a Kevin De Bruyne pass in acres of space – but Matty Cash was there to provide an excellent block to deny the youngster’s shot.
A good first half for Dean Smith’s men – especially defensively.
The opening five minutes of the second half saw dominance from the hosts, with Villa barely touching the ball.
Bertrand Traore forced Ederson into a strong save in the 51st minute as he latched onto the end of a Emiliano Martinez goal-kick and controlled the ball over Kevin De Bruyne before firing towards the bottom left.
Cancelo hit the bar for City two minute later as he raced into the box to latch onto De Bruyne’s pass. End to end stuff early in the second half.
In the 58th minute, Kevin De Bruyne departed the field of play and was replaced by forward Gabriel Jesus.
The game went even more end-to-end from this point, with both sides testing each other defensively. Douglas Luiz forced Ederson into a strong save the ball fell to him outside the box and he fired towards the top left in the 67th minute. Directly after, and El Ghazi and Jacob Ramsey replaced Bertrand Traore and Ross Barkley.
Just before the 70th minute Emiliano Martinez made an exceptional save to deny Ilkay Gundogan a header at the near post, before the ball was cleared after a heavy goalmouth scramble. Raheem Sterling was replaced by Riyad Mahrez two minutes later.
Aston Villa’s final change came as Matt Targett, arguably the game’s Man of the Match, had to be replaced through injury. Neil Taylor entered the fray.
Manchester City took the lead ten minutes from time as Rodri came back from an offside position to dispossess Tyrone Mings before playing the ball into Bernardo Silva who was there to curl an effort past Martinez from outside of the box. Dean Smith was sent off in the aftermath as he had a few choice words for referee Jon Moss.
Neil Taylor was given a yellow card five minutes from time for a foul on Bernardo Silva.
Emiliano Martinez produced a fine save to deny Joao Cancelo from range in the 88th, palming the ball wide for a corner. A minute later and Manchester City were awarded a penalty as Gabriel Jesus headed towards goal and Matty Cash’s hands blocked the effort which was heading wide. Ilkay Gundogan converted.
A result that does not reflect the game played, but rather the poor officiating once again.