By Phil McNulty Chief football writer at Villa Park
Leon Bailey’s deflected shot gave Aston Villa a fully deserved victory over Manchester City as the visitors’ recent slump in form continued.
Villa were superior throughout against the lacklustre champions, who have now gone four Premier League games without a win for the first time in more than seven years.
City once again missed the influence of the suspended Rodri, having lost their last five games when the Spaniard has been unavailable, but nothing must detract from an outstanding Villa performance which confirmed their stunning development under the management of Unai Emery.
Villa were fearless going forward from the outset, with City keeper Ederson making two fine early saves from Pau Torres and Bailey, while opposite number Emi Martinez did superbly to deny Erling Haaland twice in quick succession.
City lacked composure and were ran ragged at times, and the Villa breakthrough came 16 minutes from time when Bailey’s shot from the edge of the area took a touch off Ruben Dias as it looped beyond the helpless Ederson.
The win moves Villa, who have now won 14 consecutive home Premier League matches, into third place in the table, while City are six points adrift of leaders Arsenal.
Villa look the real deal
Emery is producing outstanding progress at Villa and the emphatic manner in which they overpowered last season’s Treble winners is arguably the finest demonstration of his impact so far.
Villa secured their 14th home league win in a row with a high-quality display allied to a fierce intensity and organisation that is the trademark of their manager.
The 22 shots Villa fired at Ederson’s goal are the most Pep Guardiola has seen his side face since taking over at City, whose meagre two efforts in total was a fair reflection of the hosts’ superiority.
Bailey’s pace and ingenuity tormented City out wide while John McGinn was the epitome of Villa’s tireless attitude that they maintained until the final whistle.
If City had snatched an equaliser, not that looked likely to do so at any stage, it would have been robbery and desperately cruel on Villa.
In the end Villa survived comfortably, even looking the more likely to score again as the match drifted towards full-time.
The rapturous reception for Emery and his players once the whistle had blown was totally merited.
“We were preparing the match trying to get this good performance collectively,” said Emery. “We did good work defensively with a high press and we were trying to be aggressive.
“We did a fantastic match, but there is still work to do for Saturday [at home to Arsenal]. The goalkeeper saved us in one or two actions.
“We were getting more comfortable and we’re connected with our supporters, they pushed us.
“When you are playing Manchester City you have to get your moments and try to control the game. We created chances but it was a very tough match.
“Leon Bailey is a very good player, and sometimes – what a player. Our challenge with him is to be consistent. He played amazingly and I will try to get him to do the same on Saturday. He was fantastic and we can enjoy it with him.”
Man City out of form and off the pace
City’s fall off in form can hardly be described as a crisis, but this run of four league games without a win will undoubtedly be a source of concern to Guardiola.
Yes, City were without Rodri, but there was far more behind this defeat than his absence.
City, remarkably, lacked creativity and were over-run on occasions by Villa’s sheer hunger and determination in a fierce Villa Park atmosphere.
In their previous three draws – against Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham – City could justifiably claim they played well enough to have won, but they can make no such case this time.
They were second best throughout and the increase in tempo and pressure most inside Villa Park expected to come after the break did not materialise.
City, obviously, are missing the world-class Kevin De Bruyne through injury, and former captain Ilkay Gundogan has not yet been adequately replaced. Perhaps there is something of a hangover from last season’s superb Treble, too.
Only a fool would question or write off a side as brilliant as Guardiola’s City, but there is no doubt something is currently missing from what is normally a slick footballing machine.
December 7, 2023 @ 6:58 GMT|Tags: Leon Bailey