MAN CITY 2, ASTON VILLA 0
Late goals from Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan sent Manchester City to the top of the Premier League following a hard-earned home victory against Aston Villa.
But it was a controversial breakthrough goal which broke the hearts of Villa who claimed Rodri was offside in the build up to the goal.
City capitalised on this stroke of fortune as they made it nine straight wins in all competitions as they also extended their unbeaten run to 16 matches, their second-best run in Pep Guardiola’s reign as manager.
They also became the first team this season to record five straight Premier League victories as their season is gathering momentum as they are top for the first time since the opening day of the 2019-20 season.
If there was any criticism it was City left it so late as their conversion rate was poor bearing in mind they created 28 goal attempts with nine on target.
Villa contributed 11 chances with the total of 39 the second highest number in a Premier League fixture this season behind the 42 in United’s 6-2 win against Leeds.
And the only dampener on a night when there was teeming rain as Storm Christoph lashed the area were injuries to Kyle Walker and Kevin De Bruyne.http://gty.im/1297473853
Bernardo said: “It was a very important win, a tough game for us. It is just three more points and on to the next one.
“It felt like an important win because we got to 75th minute without scoring, so to get those two goals, we’re very happy.
“It doesn’t matter who scores the goals but I’m happy to score today. Most important we are leaders for now. There is still a long way to go but still, very happy.”
Guardiola said: “It was a very good performance again, against a top side. Since Newcastle, we have been playing much better and I was impressed with our performance.
“They are very dangerous, just look at their results this season. It was a big victory.
“The most difficult thing is to score a goal, but in the second half we were more aggressive.
“I didn’t see the action [for the first goal]. I know they were complaining but I didn’t see it.”
Guardiola admitted he would have been unhappy to have conceded such a goal.
Villa manager Dean Smith could not fault his team, declaring: “In terms of effort, it was heroic. We only had three days’ training and played a very good team. They had lots of chances, but they’ve missed them, and they’ve been given two goals at the end.
“Are we just going to leave players behind the line then? It’s farcical. He was 10 yards offside and come back and tackled our player. It’s a pathetic law and a pathetic decision.
“I said to the fourth official David Coote ‘did you get juggling balls for Christmas?’ I don’t think any other manager would get sent off for that.
“Matty Cash is a yard away for the handball and can’t jump without his arms up. He didn’t even look at it, it flabbergasts me. It was a poor performance from the officials and that’s cost us.”
City made three changes from the side that beat Crystal Palace 4-0 on Sunday.
Joao Cancelo, Rodri and Phil Foden come in for Oleksandr Zinchenko, Fernandinho and Gabriel Jesus who all reverted to the bench.
The coronavirus outbreak at Villa meant the first team has not played since New Year’s Day, when they were also in Manchester and lost 2-1 to United at Old Trafford.
Almost three weeks on, they returned to action and made one change from that game, with Ross Barkley, fit again after a hamstring injury, replacing Anwar El Ghazi.
Nine unnamed Villa players and five backroom staff members tested positive for Covid-19.
Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez prevented City taking a fourth-minute lead with a point-blank save to deny Bernardo after Ruben Dias headed De Bruyne’s header towards goal with Tyrone Mings clearing the loose ball.
City dominated possession and territory but were unable to carve out any further meaningful chances as Villa defended resolutely.
They also had to rejig their defence after less than half an hour when Kyle Walker limped off to be replaced by Oleksandr Zinchenko.
City goalkeeper Ederson was called into action for the first time in the 37th minute making a routine diving save to deny Barkley following a cut back from Jack Grealish.
Villa finished the half strongly as Barkley had another effort, this time deflected by Dias for a corner.
And early in the second half Bertrand Traore cut in from the right after a dazzling run and forced Ederson into another save.
City’s best chance of the night came in the 54th minute when Joao Cancelo cut in from the right only to see his shot from 10 yards strike the crossbar.
Guardiola was forced into a second enforced change just short of the hour when De Bruyne came off injured as he was replaced by Jesus.
Villa remained a threat and a terrific long-distance drive from Douglas Luiz was beaten away by Ederson.
Ilkay Gundogan’s header from Foden’s corner was parried by Martinez as Villa somehow managed to scramble the ball to safety.
City made a third change of the night in pursuit of a winning goal as Riyad Mahrez replaced Sterling with 18 minutes remaining.
You had the feeling it was destined not to be City’s night when Villa substitute Neil Taylor almost sliced Mahrez’s cross into his own net.
But the breakthrough came in the 79th minute after Mings was dispossessed by Rodri who set up Bernardo Silva who burst forward before bending a shot from the edge of the box high part Martinez for his third of the season, all scored in the last four matches.
Villa manager Smith was booked by referee Jon Moss, believing Rodri had come back from an offside position and were incensed there was no VAR review. And, when he continued his protests, was immediately shown a red card.
Martinez denied City a second with a fabulous stop to keep out Cancelo’s goalbound drive.
City sealed victory in the last minute through a penalty from Gundogan, his seventh goal of the season after Jesus’ header struck the arm of Matty Cash, another decision which infuriated Smith.