MANCHESTER CITY 4, ASTON VILLA 1
It seems that Manchester City fans’ goal celebration, borrowed from the fans of Polish side Lech Poznan, will be seen more often this season.
City took advantage of United’s earlier draw at Anfield to claim top spot in the Barclays Premier League in style after tearing Aston Villa apart with goals from Mario Balotelli, Adam Johnson, captain Vincent Kompany and Villa old boy James Milner.
City have now scored a record equalling 27 goals in eight Premier League games – a feat matched only by Arsenal in the 2009/10 season.
There were four changes from the game against Blackburn Rovers with Micah Richards, Nigel de Jong, Gareth Barry and Gael Clichy coming into the side and deserved rests for a number of City players who had played twice during the international break prior to the Villareal game at the Etihad Stadium next week.
City manager Roberto Mancini admitted City were slow to start after losing contact with many of his players during the European Championships qualifying games.
He said: “When players come back from an international break it’s always difficult to start well. After 15 minutes we played very well, Mario scored a fantastic goal and that changed the game.
“We’ve started the season very well, but we knew that this week would be hard with games against Aston Villa, Villareal and the derby against Manchester United.”
“I think we’ve come a long way this season however we’ve only played eight games so far so we should be happy to go to Old Trafford on the top of the league. This position can change every week but it’s important to stay near the top and fight every week for the title.”
Mancini was especially delighted with the performance of Balotelli who was instrumental in starting the rout of Villa.
He continued: “I think that Mario is always happy. After four or five times on the bench in the last month maybe he understood. Now he has scored four goals in a row and he works for the team.”
“Mario can change at every moment but I am happy. It’s 40-50 days that he’s worked well and played well. He is motivated because playing and scoring are important for him.”
Balotelli had been passed fit after missing games for Italy with a back injury and was handed the responsibility to lead the Manchester City attack alone against Aston Villa. The Italian grasped the chance with both hands and, in his own eccentric style, was the difference in the first half.
Early chances to take the lead were not taken up by a nervous looking City as Yaya Toure failed to connect with a Barry cross and Darren Bent was not penalised when Micah Richards fell after cross Darren Bent’s path as he went to collect the loose ball. Toure also shot straight at Shay Given after Johnson had laid on a chance for him.
Balotelli had an effort backheeled against the Villa post by James Milner while the Italian also tested Shay Given as City got into their stride.
Barracked by Yaya Toure for loose passes during the first half, Balotelli had already exchanged some frank views with the visiting fans when he found himself in the perfect position to execute an overhead kick to put City into the lead after 28 minutes when Adam Johnson’s corner wasn’t cleared by Heskey and Richards’ touch fell nicely for him.
Not content to have put City 1-0 up, Balotelli could also be found in the defence and causing problems on the flanks to truly silence the away fans.
Emile Heskey had an early chance for Villa in the second half but any thoughts of an early reponse by the visitors were extinguished after Stephen Warnock misread a Yaya Toure lob as City broke quickly and slipped allowing the ball to bounce kindly for Johnson to slot home after just 47 minutes.
Five minutes later and it was all over for Villa as Balotelli’s curler forced Given to concede a corner from which Johnson found Kompany and the City captain marked his 100th City appearance with a headed goal into the far corner to put City 3-0 up.
Villa did pull one back, however, with City reduced to 10 men after Richards was taken off with a head injury following a collision with Shay Given.
With Richards missing Agbonlahor’s cross towards the back post on 64 minutes came off Charles N’Zogbia, who had looked offside, and fell nicely for Stephen Warnock to reduce the deficit with his effort going in off the crossbar.
James Milner had been filling in a right back for Richards and looked distraught after Warnock’s goal but restored the three-goal cushion by starting a move that he finished. His cross-field pass to Johnson on the right flank saw the winger drive into the Villa area and lay off the ball to Barry whose subsequent square ball found Milner in space as he pushed upfield.
Milner’s rising strike turned in the air and beat Given to his right. The former Villa player didn’t celebrate his goal but there were no such concessions from the home fans who already knew their team were deservedly top of the league by two points.