Man City vs Aston Villa: Raheem Sterling again the catalyst as champions keep up pressure on Liverpool

Manchester City 3-0 Aston Villa: Fernandinho was sent off late on but only after goals from Sterling, David Silva and Ilkay Gundogan secured the three points

Richard Jolly
Etihad Stadium
Saturday 26 October 2019 14:18
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Man City's best goals at home to Aston Villa

Three goals for Manchester City to reduce the gap to three points to Liverpool. They experienced 45 minutes of frustration against Aston Villa, before the second half went altogether more smoothly. It was further evidence of the transformative powers of Raheem Sterling.

As David Silva and Ilkay Gundogan later struck in quick succession, his 17th of the season was not obviously among his most important goals, but it irrevocably altered the game. Fernandinho’s late red card, City’s second dismissal in as many games, mattered not. The result was determined long before then.

Yet City lost their last home league game to well-organised opponents from the Midlands and there were certain similarities with the loss to Wolves. Their irritation at a first half when they failed to find the final ball manifested itself with the referee Graham Scott, who blew the whistle when City were on the attack and was then confronted by a host of their players, but the main causes were an obdurate Aston Villa and the champions themselves, who were below par.

Tom Heaton was barely worked before the break, with Silva spurning City’s best chance by rolling a shot wide after Sterling’s cutback, but was defeated 20 seconds after the restart.

Predictably, Sterling was the scorer, with Gabriel Jesus, preferred to Sergio Aguero, the provider, by flicking on Ederson’s punt forward for the winger to finish through Heaton’s legs. Sterling, City’s best player in the first half, made the breakthrough in the second. Villa had resisted valiantly but, once trailing, it was always likely the deficit would be extended.

If Tyrone Mings, beaten in the air by the shorter Jesus, was culpable then, he turned rescuer with an extraordinary goal-line clearance to deny the Brazilian. Heaton, who had taken some of the pace of his shot, helped, but it still represented a remarkable recovery. Jesus later struck the bar on a day of near-misses for him.

City scored twice within five minutes when Silva applied the slightest of touches to Kevin De Bruyne’s menacing cross. Whichever midfielder scored then, it was clearer later when, after Bernardo Silva missed a simpler opportunity, Gundogan volleyed in with a flourish.

So City preserved their record of never losing back-to-back home league games under Pep Guardiola. If Villa departed defeated, an in-form team briefly threatened to change that. City look susceptible to the counter-attack and Villa were bright on the break. When John Stones, starting for the first time since September’s debacle at Norwich, gave the ball away, John McGinn tested Ederson, who did doubly well by preventing Douglas Luiz from scoring the rebound.

Stones made amends to some extent with a fine block from Trezeguet’s shot. Each incident was referred to VAR; on neither occasion was a penalty given and by the time McGinn eventually hit the post, City were three goals to the good and Sterling had applied a little pressure to his old team when Liverpool face Tottenham on Sunday.

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