Macken on target to keep up revival

Manchester City 2 Aston Villa 0
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Football's more fickle followers, who love watching men fall off the managerial merry-go-round, will probably have to wait a while before they can have another crack at Manchester City's Kevin Keegan.

Football's more fickle followers, who love watching men fall off the managerial merry-go-round, will probably have to wait a while before they can have another crack at Manchester City's Kevin Keegan.

The former England coach was being tipped for the sack or another resignation when City failed to win in their first three games of the season. Now, after a run of just one defeat in eight games, they are ninth in the table and just a couple of victories short of a Champions' League place. A mid-table finish remains their most likely destination, but that is not too bad when many were tipping them for relegation not long ago.

City, missing their injured striker Nicolas Anelka, retained their attacking nature and dominated Villa from the start with Antoine Sibierski twice going close to scoring inside the opening 10 minutes. A player of Anelka's class would surely have done better than Jon Macken, though, when a Danny Mills free-kick presented him with a straightforward header from about eight yards out, in the 12th minute.

But we will never know if Anelka could have done as well as Macken when he shot City into a deserved lead in the 29th minute. The ball fell to him fortuitously just inside the Villa penalty area after good work from Mills and Robbie Fowler, and he showed great strength and poise to hold off Mark Delaney and score with a low right-foot shot on the turn. That was Macken's first Premiership goal since March, but more will surely follow with that shooting instinct at his disposal.

Villa, looking to win a fourth consecutive Premiership match for the first time in four years, had the will but not the ability to get back into the game before Shaun Wright-Phillips doubled City's lead eight minutes before half-time. The right-sided midfielder started the move inside his own half and arrived on the edge of the Villa box just in time to lash in a rare left-foot shot after Olof Mellberg had stretched to clear a Stephen Jordan drive, merely teeing the shot up perfectly for Wright-Phillips.

David James was finally called into action for the first time in the City goal in the 43rd minute when he tipped a low Lee Hendrie shot around the post for a corner.

Although it is considered an insult to right-minded fans, the tea-time kick-off, on a wet but mild Manchester evening, still managed to raise a crowd of almost 45,000 and most of them were in party mood for the second half.

Not the Villa manager, David O'Leary, of course, who sent on substitutes Thomas Hitzlsperger and Luke Moore to try to change his luck with half an hour to go.

It helped to stem the tide of City attacks and Villa had more possession, but Hitzlsperger's free-kick slammed into a wall and Gavin McCann's shot produced James's second save of the match.

His third came from an 87th-minute Juan Pablo Angel penalty after Richard Dunne had tripped Moore. Angel's miss from the rebound and Lee Hendrie's last-minute sending-off for pretending to head-butt Mills summed up Villa's miserable night.

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