ASTON VILLA 0, MANCHESTER CITY 2
Late goals by Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero break Villa resistance to move within two points of Chelsea
City have 27 chances on goal at Villa Park
Fernando returns from injury layoff, David Silva continues sparkling form
Two late goals from Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero finished off a Villa side who refused to submit to relentless City pressure until the last eight minutes of the game at Villa Park which, as with the Etihad Stadium in midweek, was noticeably short of full capacity.
Joe Hart retained his place in the Manchester City travelling party but City boss Manuel Pellegrini made three other changes. Eliaquim Mangala replaced Martin Demichelis in central defence while James Milner started against his old club instead of Jesus Navas. Gael Clichy was replaced by Aleksander Kolarov.
Mangala was included to combat the pace of the Aston Villa front line but the Villans were hit by an injury to Gabby Agbonlahor who was broke down during the warm-up.
He might have continued to look like a languid shadow of his usual dynamic powerful self but Yaya Toure earned his cake today when he scored after 82 minutes of stiff Aston Villa resistance against a City side still yet to consistently hit top gear this season.
Fernando, an increasingly vital squad member for City, had returned from injury and came on as a substitute to stiffen their error prone midfield. He ended up setting Toure on his way with a simple square pass from an advanced position.
Like City, the Ivorian hasn’t been at his best for too much of the season but found little resistance as he ambled towards the area in an all too rare foray and then unleashed a shot which curled inside Brad Guzan’s near post.
Villa had been earlier taking notes from City’s midweek Champions League game against Roma and opted for pace upfront and a packed midfield but having initially named Gabby Agbonlahor in their team they had to change plans before kick-off when the pact frontman was injured in the warm-up. Instead of Agbonlahor it was Andreas Weimann stepping in for the England flyer. It was a big blow to Villa manager Paul Lambert’s plan to handle City.
As expected, City dominated the first half but neither side could test the keepers with a shot to save although City should have done better with the chances that came their way.
Things contrasted sharply in the second half as the excitement level rose.
Sergio Aguero was ever the predator and hit the far post shortly after the restart after being put through by Milner while Villa counter attacked through Charles N’Zogbia who played in Kieran Richardson whose shot under pressure from Pablo Zableta was saved by Hart who raced out to sweep up.
With City’s midfield looking porous in the second half, Frank Lampard replaced a laboured looking Fernandinho who had injured his ankle after landing awkwardly following an aerial challenge soon after the restart.
Edin Dzeko had been useful up front in the first half but had faded in the second half and was withdrawn for Fernando after 64 minutes as City finally shored up the midfield which was being bossed by the English Villa trio of Fabian Delph, Tom Cleverley and Ashley Westwood.
City still looked vulnerable on the break whenever they lost the ball despite carving out an impressive number of chances in the second period including a David Silva shot which was straight at Guzan, with Mangala’s header also forcing save out of the American.
City eventually ended the game having registered 27 shots on goal, with seven on target and, crucially, two of them beat Guzan in the Villa goal.
It was a relief for City when Toure grabbed the vital goal after 82 minutes and they only considered themselves home and dry when Aguero smashed City’s second goal from the edge of the box with two minutes to go after collecting a quick pass from James Milner.
The result puts a little pressure on league leaders Chelsea as City moved within two points of them.