City produced a fine second-half display to beat Aston Villa 3-0 at the Etihad. Goals from man-of-the-match Raheem Sterling, David Silva and Ilkay Gundogan settled the game, with the result moving City back above Leicester into second place in the Premier League table.
WHAT HAPPENED? City controlled possession but were lacking quality for much of the first half. It was Gabriel Jesus, in the starting XI in place of Sergio Aguero, who had City’s first decent chance, but his effort on the turn went wide of the upright. City’s play was disjointed, but as the half progressed we began creating chances. Raheem Sterling, the man of the moment, weaved his way past two challenges before having his effort blocked, and Joao Cancelo, always willing to get forward and supplement attacks, had his shot from distance saved. But Villa, impressive this season after their promotion in May, weren’t going to lie down and die - and moments later, they were almost ahead when John Stones’ loose pass was pounced upon by John McGinn. His curling effort was saved by Ederson low to his right and former City midfielder Douglas Luiz almost got to the rebound but the ball was nicked away at the last by Cancelo. The Etihad Stadium breathed a collective sight of relief. City looked somewhat off the pace, but a moment of real quality almost opened up Villa. A slick passing move involving Ilkay Gundogan and the electric Sterling ended with David Silva’s first-time effort going inches past the post. It would have been some goal. The deadlock was broken seconds after the restart. A superb, pinpoint long ball from Ederson was deftly flicked on by Jesus, who was stronger than Tyrone Mings, and Sterling raced clear to finish expertly. It was his 13th goal in 14 games this season, a remarkable return from one of the world’s best players. Jesus was inched away from nodding home De Bruyne’s free-kick, and the striker had an effort cleared off the line by the thigh of Mings. It wasn't going his way in front of goal. But City’s lead was doubled when Silva got the slightest of touches to De Bruyne’s delivery to send the ball past Tom Heaton, before Gundogan’s scissor-kick finish after some pinball in the area made it 3-0. City played out the final few minutes with 10 men after Fernandinho received a second yellow card and there was still time for further drama when Jesus' effort clipped the bar and McGinn hit the post for Villa with seconds remaining. An entertaining second half and a vital three points. MAN OF THE MATCH: RAHEEM STERLING It’s crazy to think Sterling’s ability was doubted for so long. As recently as the 2018 World Cup in Russia, there were some who suggested he was uncultured and lacked the necessary calmness in the final third to really excel. They were wrong. Sterling has now scored 62 times for City since the start of the 2017-18 campaign. This season alone, he has 17 goals and eight assists in 18 matches for club and country. Those are the kind of number produced by truly world-class players, which Sterling undoubtedly is. After his 11-minute hat-trick put Atalanta to the sword on Tuesday, he was the catalyst for this victory over Villa. His pace frightened them throughout and his goal turned the game in our favour.
STATZONE Fernandinho made his 200th Premier League appearance for City today. And David Silva set a new Club record of 267 Premier League starts, overtaking Joe Hart.
WHAT IT MEANS City’s win cuts Liverpool’s lead at the top of the Premier League table to three points, temporarily at least. The Merseysiders host Tottenham tomorrow. Leicester sit third, two points behind City after their remarkable 9-0 win at Southampton on Friday evening. It already feels tight at the top.
WHAT’S NEXT? City face Southampton twice in five days. On Tuesday, they visit the Etihad in the last 16 of the Carabao Cup, with City looking to win that trophy for the third-straight year. Guardiola is likely to shake his team selection up once again for that one. There’s vast quality in this squad and he usually opts for a mix of senior stars and premium young players in that competition. And the South Coast side return to Manchester on Saturday 2 November in the Premier League. How will they react to suffering the Premier League’s biggest-ever home defeat?
Manchester City (3): Ederson; Cancelo, Stones, Fernandinho, Mendy (Angeliño, 73’); Gündogan, De Bruyne (Foden, 76’), David Silva; Bernardo Silva, Sterling (Agüero, 76’), Gabriel Jesus
Aston Villa (0): Heaton; Guilbert, Engels, Mings, Targett; Nakamba, Trezeguet, Douglas Luiz, McGinn, Grealish (El Ghazi, 83’) ; Wesley (Davis, 70’)