Aston Villa vs Manchester City match report: Enigmatic Yaya Toure finds the key to Villa puzzle

Aston Villa 0 Manchester City 2: Lambert frustrates Pellegrini’s Champions until unsettled midfielder finally breaks resistance

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The Independent Online

Yaya Touré has the arthritic gait of a pensioner and the indifference of a rebellious teenager. He went through the motions at Villa Park on Saturday night before scoring a match-winning goal which symbolised his status as one of the most enigmatic figures in English football.

All it required for him to avoid another inquest into his motivation, was a momentary lapse of concentration by an Aston Villa defence which had been defiance personified for 82 minutes. He required a fraction of a second, a semblance of space, to steer a precise shot into the bottom corner of the net.

The game was made safe by Sergio Aguero’s coruscating shot six minutes later. Manchester City may have Nigel Farage’s inability to work harmoniously with Europe, but this suggested they can retain their domestic power base. Chelsea, who covet their Premier League title, have competition.

Villa’s survival strategy, based upon collective discipline and headache-inducing concentration, was thwarted in cruel circumstances. The old ground which had seemed to grow in atmospheric intensity as autumnal darkness began to descend, emptied quickly.

 

City had won only one of their seven previous away league matches following the Champions League, but this answered key questions. Villa’s bright start to the season has been compromised by successive losses to Arsenal, Chelsea and City, but Paul Lambert deserved to profit from another indication of his effectiveness. A tactical chameleon, he has deployed 11 different systems since taking over in June 2012.

Last season’s 3-2 home win over City was based on a rigorous 3-5-2, introduced for the first time in nine months. It worked because although City had 15 shots on goal, Villa scored with three of their four attempts.

Last night required similar resilience and some good fortune. Defenders used their bodies as roadblocks, throwing themselves about with an inspirational lack of concern for health and safety.

Philippe Senderos deflected Alek-sander Kolarov’s shot on to the outside of the post; Aly Cissokho stuck out a foot to repel a goalbound header by Edin Dzeko, who was further thwarted by a low-flying object later identified as Nathan Baker.

Threats were everywhere. David Silva is a humming bird of a footballer, a blur. Aguero is a predator with the soul of a poet and the dexterity of an acrobat.

James Milner is fashionably unfashionable, yet Villa fans know his quality.  He featured in both goals.

Villa’s best chance was catching City’s two full backs pushed too high and wide; the problem was the uncanny ability of Vincent Kompany to sense gaps in the defence and respond to danger.

The contrast between the teams was captured by two chances, spurned in 30 seconds after the break. First Aguero, free inside the penalty area, surprised everyone by placing a precise side footed shot against far post. Villa broke immediately, through Charles N’Zogbia, and Joe Hart had to dive at Keiran Richardson’s feet.

The pressure grew, and was released by a celebrated, yet unlikely figure. Touré may drive his coaches to distraction, but he was acclaimed as a hero. Go figure.

Line-ups:

Aston Villa (4-1-4-1): Guzan; Hutton, Senderos, Baker, Cissoko; Westwood; Delph, Cleverley, Richardson (Grealish, 71), N’Zogbia (Bacuna, 71); Weimann (Benteke, 61).

Manchester City (4-1-3-2): Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Mangala, Kolarov; Fernandinho (Lampard, 56); Milner, Touré, Silva (Navas , 84); Aguero, Dzeko (Fernando, 64).

Referee: Chris Foy.

Man of the match: Baker (Villa)

Match rating: 7/10

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