- Tom Cayless
Bernardo brilliance guides City win – Aston Villa 1-2 Manchester City Review
As the title race ramps up another notch, Pep Guardiola's Manchester City ran out 2-1 winners away to Aston Villa.
Just four days after their snowy win over West Ham, Manchester City travelled to the West Midlands in search of three points. Under new manager Steven Gerrard, Villa have started in impressive style, winning his first two games and with the whole of Villa Park up for it, the game was always going to be a tricky affair for Guardiola and his side.
A great finish from Ruben Dias and a wonder strike from Bernado Silva were enough for City to leave Villa Park with all three points – despite a second-half onslaught from the hosts.
Kevin De Bruyne, once again, was left out of the squad. Previously out with COVID-19 related issues, the Belgian tested negative earlier this week but wasn't fit enough to travel. English duo, Kyle Walker and John Stones both didn't travel but all wasn't negative news as Phil Foden and Jack Grealish were back in the squad. Unfortunately, Ilkay Gundogan also didn't travel.
Here is the squad Guardiola chose:
City started the game incredibly and continued in this vein for the whole of the first half. Starving Villa from the ball, the hosts didn't even have a touch in City's half for the first six minutes. The duo of Rodri and Fernandinho put a stop to any spell of possession or counter-attack that Gerrard's side tried to put together, whilst Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva controlled the tempo.
24 minutes in, Guardiola's side came close. Dazzling feet from Silva beat two Villa defenders before slotting Sterling down the left-hand side. City's No.7 crossed across goal but narrowly missed both Gabriel Jesus and Riyad Mahrez - perhaps emphasising City's possible need for a 'typical number 9.'
Halfway through the first period, City got their reward through an unlikely goalscorer - Ruben Dias. Sterling skipped past Matty Cash, not for the first or last time, and pulled the ball into space at the edge of the box where City's Portuguese centre-back curled it with his weaker foot past Emiliano Martinez.
Just before the break, the Premier League champions added a second. After Jesus was played over the Villa defence, he whipped across an inviting ball to Silva. The 27-year-old quite unbelievably volleyed over Martinez from just inside the penalty area. The Blues went down the tunnel with a deserved 2-0 advantage.
The second half started in the worst possible fashion for City - conceding an early goal. Just a few minutes into the second 45, villa striker Ollie Watkins managed to find space in the box, before volleying into the bottom right corner off the post. The defending was shocking from City, who let the English international just run straight past them near the front-post.
Despite their first-half domination, Guardiola's side were somewhat poor in the second and Villa cut through them on multiple occasions. Ederson was forced into multiple good saves, the key coming after the home side played through Carney Chukwuemeka. The Brazilian stopper spread himself and made a great one-on-one save.
Minutes from the end of the game, the moment everyone had been waiting for happen. Jack Grealish was subbed on to a mixed reception with some of the home support cheering and smaller sections booing. Nevertheless, whenever Grealish had the ball Villa Park was a cauldron of boos.
The boos weren't loud enough to affect him or any of the City players as they held on for an important 2-1 victory.
Ederson (8) Cancelo (7) Dias (8) Ake (7) Zinchenko (6) Rodri (7) Fernandihno (6) Silva (8.5) Mahrez (7) Jesus (7) Sterling (7)
Substitutes: Grealish N/A
After such an impressive first half, City will be disappointed with how they let their standards flop in the second. Despite that, a win is a win and City needed that win tonight with both Chelsea and Liverpool picking up all three points. It may have not been a 'vintage city' performance, but as they say 'it's a sign of a good team when they win whilst playing bad.'
Guardiola's men now face a trip to Watford on Saturday to kick-start a packed December schedule, but City have been blessed with their fixtures with them strong favourites in all games over the Christmas period.
Written by: @TomCayless_
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