Barclay’s English Premiership
Monday 5 October 2009, 20:00 KO
City: Given, Zabaleta, Lescott, Touré (c), Bridge, Wright-Phillips, Barry, de Jong (Ireland 50), Bellamy, Tevez (Santa Cruz 68), Adebayor
Unused: Taylor, Johnson, Sylvinho, Richards, Petrov
Goals: Bellamy (66)
Booked: de Jong, Wright-Phillips
Referee: Mike Dean
Man of the Match: Wayne Bridge
City’s second consecutive Monday night game took them to Villa Park and it was a night of familiar faces. Gareth Barry returned to his old stomping ground, much to the jeers of the home side, while City had a re-union with former centre-back and captain Richard Dunne.
And it was Dunne’s new team who had the first chance. A Villa corner headed towards the net from Young, but Given stretched out a toe to make a fine save, with Lescott on the line just in case. The former-Everton defender completed the clearance.
City’s first effort of the match came on 7 minutes, as Wayne Bridge had a go. But his shot looped off Sidwell and over Friedel’s crossbar.
It was break-neck speed as Gareth Barry stopped Carew with a crunching tackle, and as a Petrov shot flew just wide of Given’s post. The City goalkeeper, though, knew where the shot was heading.
With the game moving as quickly as it was, something was bound to give. Unfortunately, from City’s point of view, it was at their end and it was the former captain who nodded Villa into an early lead from a corner. In fairness to Dunne, he didn’t celebrate his first Villa goal out of respect to his former employer.
Halfway into the first half and Tevez was on a one-man mission to find an equaliser. First, his long range effort was just over the bar, before a second effort from distance was miles wide, with Wright-Phillips free to his right.
Just before the half hour, Petrov caught City out with a quick free kick, but the visitors were able to scramble it away. Petrov then picked up a yellow card for a cynical foul on Wright-Phillips as he was away down the right. Tevez then had his third shot from range, but despite taking a flick of Adebayor, Friedel saved comfortably.
De Jong then picked up a yellow card for a tough tackle on Young, leaving the Villa-man injured. In truth, he never really looked like he recovered from the tackle, which wasn’t malicious, just mistimed.
The last action of the half was all City pressure, as Adebayor forced Friedel to tip over from a Barry free kick, before Touré embarked on a 50 yard run. The end result, though, wasn’t read by Wright-Phillips and the chance was lost.
The second half looked like it was going to start in the same manner as the first ended, as Gareth Barry whipped in a cross towards Adebayor. But it was too far in front of him, though could have bounced in off Richard Dunne had he got an unwanted touch.
Just before the hour mark, Tevez played a nicely weighted pass inside the fullback for Wright-Phillips, but the little winger had to stretch for his first touch and it allowed enough time for Milner to get back.
City then had another scare, when Richard Dunne got his head on another corner, but this time the ball arrowed just wide of the post. Had it been inside, Wright-Phillips was in the right place to clear.
City substitute Stephen Ireland then had a pop from range after two corners, but it was deflected wide by Sidwell, as City continued to press for an equaliser.
Then City got what they craved. Wright-Phillips knocked the ball to Ireland, who sent Adebayor free in the box. With the angle narrow, the City front-man pulled the ball back to the unmarked Bellamy, who smashed his shot into the net.
With 15 minutes to go, Ireland was pulling all the strings in midfield. His though ball looked for Adebayor in the box, but Friedel was out quickly to smother the pass.
And, with the clock nearing 90, Bellamy called on his endless supplies of energy to set off down the left. His cross-cum-shot was comfortable for Friedel at his near post, but the American had to be alert.
With a minute left, Bellamy found Santa Cruz in the box, but the Paraguay international couldn’t control and the danger was cleared. After a stoppage for treatment to a clear distressed Kolo Touré, Wright-Phillips had the chance to swing the ball in, but his cross was gathered by Friedel.
It was the last action of an end-to-end match, where both teams probably deserved a point, but both wanted all three. In the end, City were probably the happier after the point at Villa Park took them back into the top four.