MAN CITY 3, ASTON VILLA 2
Sergio Aguero and Aleksandar Kolarov put Manchester City into the lead
Tom Cleverley and Carlos Sanchez level the scores for Aston Villa
Christian Benteke wrongly flagged offside when clean through
Fernandinho vollies 89th minute winner for Manchester City
Yaya Toure substituted at half time with hamstring injury
Manuel Pellegrini named an unchanged Premier League line up for the first time this season and was rewarded with an important win as Manchester City sought to finish closest to Chelsea in this season’s title race.
It was a game neither goal keeper will want to remember, but City’s late winner ensured they regained second place until tomorrow at least after an error strewn victory at the Etihad over FA Cup finalists Aston Villa.
Pellegrini accepted that this wasn’t one of City’s more polished wins but he paid respect to the team’s fighting spirit.
“We didn’t play well today. Aston Villa played very well, especially with their possession of the ball, but they didn’t have chances to score. They had two set pieces to draw the game. We scored the third goal from a set piece like they scored their two goals.” admitted the Chilean.
“This was one of our worst games in possession and the number of passes we lost.
“I don’t know if we deserved to be two goals on top of of Aston Villa, they played very well today. Maybe their first goal was offside and maybe there was a clear penalty but there was a lot of things that could have happened a different way during the game.”
Pellegrini was perhaps referring to the 87th minute offside decision against Christian Benteke that seemed level and which Villa manager bemoaned as: “onside, a penalty, and a sending off” after Joe Hart had brought down the big Belgian although the offside flag was up.
“The most important thing when you lost the lead twice is not to put your arms down but to go for the third goal.” added Pellegrini.
In terms of the race to qualify for a Champions League berth while avoiding a qualifying tie by finishing second or third, Pellegrini was upbeat about City’s prospects after watching them fight back to win all three points today.
“We have to play for another twelve points. It was important to win today and we will see what happens tomorrow with United and Arsenal.
“It’s important to continue with the spirit that we had today. It’s not easy when you are winning 2-0 and they draw 2-2 and to go again for the match.
“We scored the third goal and we are not disappointed. We made important mistakes in both set pieces that they scored.”
“With this spirit maybe another game we don’t lose.” said Pellegrini.
Yaya Toure was taken off as a precautionary measure by Pellegrini and he revealed that the Ivory Coast midfielder would be having a scan on a “muscle injury” before seeing on Monday how bad it was.
Manuel Pellegrini had named an unchanged Premier League line up for the first time this season.
Goals by Sergio Aguero and Aleksandar Kolarov had briefly put City into a commanding lead but Aston Villa fought them all the way and pulled it back to 2-1 with a goal by Tom Cleverley into an empty net and then got an 85th minute equaliser through Carlos Sanchez following another Hart error.
City got their winner with a minute to go after they scored their own version of Sanchez’ goal after Fernandinho vollied home Kolarov’s deflected corner from six yards out.
City were out of the blocks fast, with Aguero scoring his 27th goal in all competitions in the third minute with one of the easiest he will ever score after Brad Guzan inexplicably scuffed a kick from his area after Ron Vlaar’s backpass. The ball rolled out to Aguero who couldn’t believe his luck with an open goal to choose from as he put City into the lead.
It was his fourth Premier League goal in three games after a five game drought and Aguero looked back to full fitness as he sped past defenders at will and tested Guzan throughout a first period dominated by City until they dropped their intensity and allowed Villa back into the game.
By the time Villa upped their game, City had racked up a succession of chances and might have put the game out of Villa’s reach within 20 minutes.
Jesus Navas could have doubled the lead as he raced onto a ball out of midfield in the sixth minute but Kieran Richardson raced back to deflect his shot into the side netting.
Fernando’s header from Aleks Kolarov’s 16th minute free kick, which had been completely missed by Guzan, was wide and there were a couple of Aguero chances which showed the crowd that the Argentine was back at his free running best.
City peppered the Villa defence with a series of shots after Leandro Bacuna had allowed a through ball into Guzan’s area with City runners advancing on him.
But as swiftly as the chances rained down for City early on, Villa grasped the nettle and began to fight back.
Pablo Zabaleta blocked Ron Vlaar’s 27th minute shot in a challenge on the edge of his own area and the ball bounced off Yaya Toure to Christian Benteke whose thunderous shot was blocked by Joe Hart who had already sensed the danger and raced off his line.
And Tom Cleverley hit a couple of chances wide after being handed opportunities by Kieran Richardson and Jack Grealish as Villa crafted a series of their own attacks.
City extended their lead in the 66th minute when Carlos Sanchez’ foul on Fernandinho was punished with a booking and then a City goal after James Milner feinted to strike the ball and then allowed Aleksandar Kolarov to turn a low effort past Guzan for his first goal of the season.
Home celebrations were short lived, however, as Villa pulled one back within two minutes when Jack Grealish’s own free kick was headed by Fernandinho only as far as Fernando, and the Brazilian’s attempted clearance bounced off his shin and right into Tom Cleverley’s path. Joe Hart had already come out of his goal chasing the ball which had long gone so the midfielder’s shot bobbled into an empty net for his first Premier League goal since December 2013.
The danger was there but City didn’t respond and Villa levelled with five minutes to go when Joe Hart could only palm Charles N’Zogbia’s corner out to Carlos Sanchez to level the scores at 2-2 with a volley.
Benteke was clean through two minutes later but seemed to be wrongly flagged offside after N’Zogbia’s pass had left him with just Hart to beat.
And there was a further blow for Villa in the 89th minute as City snatched all three points with their own version of the Cleverley equaliser when Kolarov’s corner took a deflection into the air and was vollied home from six yards out by Fernandinho, his third goal of the season, sparking relieved celebrations around the Etihad.