Barclay’s Premier League
Tuesday 28 December 2010, 15.00 KO
City: Hart, Richards, Lescott, Kompany, Zabaleta, Vieira, Y Touré (Jo 63), de Jong (c) (Bridge 77), Silva (Milner 59), A Johnson, Balotelli
Unused: Given, Boateng, Barry, Tevez
Goals: Balotelli (pen 8, 27, pen 55), Lescott (14)
Referee: Michael Oliver
Man of the Match: David Silva
With large changes from the side that won at St James’s Park, an out-of-form Aston Villa side could have had their hopes of a resurgence buoyed. But, City quickly snuffed out their chances, as a bright start led to Silva almost finding Balotelli in the box.
But, a minute later, the same two players combined and Lichaj hauled the big Italian down in the box and the home side had a penalty. Balotelli dusted himself down and coolly slotted the ball past Friedel, sending the American the wrong way to put City in a commanding position.
Yaya Touré almost doubled City’s lead immediately, but the ball was deflected wide of the post for a corner, as City pressed. And the second goal was soon in coming, as, after a short delay while Cuellar was treated, Lescott rose well to nod the ball towards goal. Bannon thought he had headed it clear, but the assistant flagged that it had crossed the line and the referee gave the goal.
Aston Villa threatened an immediate response, but Downing’s free kick was well over the bar, before a City move consisting of 35 passes without a Villa touch effectively ended the game before half time. After a spell of knocking the ball between midfield and defence, City saw their chance and Yaya Touré found Silva, whose shot was saved by Friedel, leaving Balotelli to slot in the rebound.
With 34 minutes on the clock, Silva almost made it four, but his effort was deflected just the wrong side of the post, as Friedel was beaten, after some good work from Adam Johnson on the right wing.
Kompany then played his way into trouble inside the City box, before he got himself out of it with a sublime piece of skill. Lescott was then perhaps a little fortunate not to give away a penalty on Agbonlahor, as Villa tried to get forward with half time approaching.
Hart was alert to stop a shot from Agbonlahor, receiving a helping hand from Lescott, who got his toe to the ball before anyone else to clear the rebound. Richards then fancied his chances from well outside the box, but he miscued his shot and it dribbled behind for a goal kick.
The first big chance of the second half fell, unsurprisingly, to the home side. A Johnson corner was cleared only as far as Vieira. The veteran took a touch and fired it towards goal, but Friedel was equal to it, pushing it around the post for a corner.
And it was a sign of things to come: A minute later, Adam Johnson weaved his way into the box and was tripped by Albrighton. The referee had no hesitation and awarded City their second penalty of the game and Balotelli slotted it home for his hat-trick, as coolly as his first.
With 67 minutes played, Jo could have gotten himself on the scoresheet, but it was just behind him and a difficult chance, meaning he couldn’t keep his volley down after Kompany had flicked on a Milner corner. Zabaleta then fired a left footed shot wide, after Jo had attempted an ambitious overhead kick.
Delph had an isolated shot for Villa, but it was well pushed around the post by Hart, before Downing sent another free kick well over the bar. Lichaj then fired towards goal from six yards, but Hart, again, was on the top of his form to make the save, as Villa looked for a late consolation goal.