Aston Villa 0 Manchester City 1 match report: Roberto Mancini demands City win every game as Villa keep sliding in relegation battle


Villa Park

The title race may well be over but at least the towel has not been thrown in just yet. Manchester City’s players came into this game on the back of some harsh words from their manager, Roberto Mancini, over their failure to sustain a meaningful defence of their Premier League crown. They were 15 points behind leaders Manchester United at kick-off last night but had narrowed the gap to 12 by the end, following a narrow victory secured by Carlos Tevez in the dying embers of the first half.

Last season City trailed United by eight points with six matches remaining and though Mancini conceded it was "difficult" to imagine Sir Alex Ferguson's men slipping up again, he demanded that the champions at least win all their remaining games just in case. "We have 30 points more and we need to try to win [every game]. In the end we will see what happens. In football anything can happen," he said, more in hope than expectation.

City may have failed to reproduce last season's swagger but they were at least effective last night and certainly too strong for Aston Villa as they built on last week's win over Chelsea. That said, they did benefit from the kind of mistake that has come to define the home side's sorry season. Anybody wondering just what Villa are doing in the Premier League's bottom three only had to see the goal that sealed their 14th defeat in 28 matches as an error by centre-back Ciaran Clark led to Tevez scoring his 11th of the campaign.

A minute remained of first-half stoppage time when Clark dawdled in possession some 30 yards from his own goal and as Edin Dzeko closed him down, tried an ill-advised turn that ended with the City striker pinching the ball and breaking to the edge of the box where he squared to Tevez. The Argentine, starting in place of the injured Sergio Aguero, took goalkeeper Brad Guzan out with a dummy and shot past Clark on the goalline.

Clark, stand-in captain in Ron Vlaar's absence, argued to referee Mike Dean that he had been fouled but Paul Lambert, the Villa manager, had no complaints. "I wouldn't have minded if somebody had put one in the top corner, it was a mistake by us," he said. "It is easy to be critical of Ciaran Clark, the lad has been excellent for me [and] he will learn from it."

The problem with Villa's young team is these lessons are proving so costly. They have won just one of their last 11 league games and remain third-bottom with 24 points, a point ahead of a Reading side they face on Saturday in a match they can ill-afford to lose if they are to prolong their 25-year stay in the top division.

After that they host Queen's Park Rangers but Lambert, despite seeing the impressive Fabian Delph ruled out for both those six-pointers after his yellow card here, remains confident they can escape. "The next two games are massive. If we play like that we'll certainly give [those teams] a fright."

They very nearly gave City a scare in a high-tempo start but came no closer than when Christian Benteke connected with a Charles N'Zogbia corner and powered in a header that Tevez of all people cleared off the line.

That was as near as Villa came although the real turning point came soon after when the unfortunate Jack Rodwell limped off with a recurrence of his hamstring problems. He was starting a second successive league game for the first time in City colours and had only just forced Guzan into a fingertip save but now limped away, shaking his head in frustration.

"We are very sorry for Jack," said Mancini, who expects him to be sidelined for up to five weeks and foresees no quick fix for the injury-plagued young midfielder. "It is impossible to solve this problem in six or seven months. He has had this problem for five, six years. We need maybe more time."

Yet Rodwell's loss turned out to be City's gain. Dzeko came on, Yaya Touré dropped back and the champions were soon peppering Guzan's goal. The American made a series of fine saves as half-time approached, notably to turn Pablo Zabaleta's shot on to the far post after some slick City interplay.

That good work was undone by Clark's error, though, and Villa almost shot themselves in the foot again soon after the interval as Dzeko robbed Matthew Lowton but this time the full-back got back to clear Tevez's shot off the line.

Villa had another let-off when Yaya Touré struck a post and the offside Dzeko turned in the rebound but they did at least respond, with Gabriel Agbonlahor going close with a header that Kolo Touré deflected behind. The rest, though, was huff and puff and they will need more than that in the weeks to come.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent