Barclay’s Premier League
Saturday 22 January 2011, 17.30 KO
City: Hart, Boateng, Kolarov, K Touré, Kompany, de Jong, Y Touré, Barry (A Johnson 56), Silva, Dzeko, Tevez (c)
Unused: Given, Lescott, Zabaleta, Vieira, Milner, Jo
Referee: Howard Webb
Man of the Match: Aleksandar Kolarov
Having seen Arsenal and Manchester United win with large margins earlier in the day, City needed a victory to regain second place in the league. But it was the home side that started the brighter, as Hart had to clear away from Bent, before former City skipper Richard Dunne got up from a free kick to head over the bar.
City then had a good chance to take the lead, but Kolarov’s free kick was just too high for everybody in the box and it flashed wide of the far post, before Barry gave the ball away trying to slide Kolarov into a good crossing position on the counter attack.
It was corners where City were causing the home side problems, with Kolarov’s wicked deliveries, but Kolo Touré couldn’t capitalise with a volley on his left foot. Tevez then couldn’t react quickly enough as everybody missed it in the six yard box, and the ball rolled under his foot and City should really have been ahead.
Instead, it was the home side that got themselves in front. Sloppy play from City at the back gifted the ball to Villa. Young took on the shot from the edge of the box and Joe Hart could only parry it into the path of Darren Bent, who scored on his debut.
With 22 minutes on the clock, Vincent Kompany almost had City level. His header from another fantastic Kolarov corner was powered towards the roof of the net, before the intervention from Brad Friedel, who tipped it over for another corner to the visitors.
Dzeko was then inches from converting another Kolarov delivery, before another header from Richard Dunne was collected comfortably by Joe Hart. The former Villa man Gareth Barry almost levelled for the visitors shortly after, as he nodded a Boateng cross just wide, with the goalkeeper beaten.
Despite City’s possession, they were struggling for shots on target, though the game had been mainly played in the Villa half. Just before half time, the home side were able to ease the pressure, with a chance to double their lead from a fierce Young effort and a Downing free kick, but Hart was able to hold the shots on both occasions.
City continued their dominance of the game after half time, with Tevez firing the first chance wide just seconds in, before Silva was looking for a free kick on the edge of the box as he was fouled by Dunne, but the referee wasn’t interested.
Dzeko then headed over from a corner after his shot had been deflected wide to win the flag kick, before Kolarov smashed a shot straight into Albrighton and Friedel needed a strong hand to bat away a fierce shot from Boateng. The rebound could have gone anywhere, but it fell to a Villa shirt and the home side cleared the danger.
Villa could have nicked a second after a difficult backpass was sliced by Hart straight to Agbonlahor, but the hosts couldn’t capitalise. The City keeper then did well to push a Young shot away, in one of Villa’s isolated attacks.
City then camped themselves into the Villa box, as Johnson wriggled his way to the by-line and found Tevez, but the little striker’s shot was superbly blocked by Collins. De Jong was then denied his first City goal by a flick onto the post from the feet of Clark as the midfielder’s shot from range flew towards the bottom corner. Villa were backs against the wall.
With 5 minutes to play, Dzeko got up ahead of Collins and headed inches wide of the post and Kolarov’s shot took two deflections before finishing just wide, winning City another corner. The left back then latched onto the clearance, but his effort cleared the crossbar.
And with that effort, City’s hopes of an equaliser disappeared. Villa defended very well, having gone in front, but in not converting one of their 24 shots on goal, City will feel very hard done to.