English Premier League
Saturday 15 October 2011, 15.00 KO
City: Hart, Richards (K Toure 66), Kompany (c), Lescott, Clichy, Y Toure (Silva 66), de Jong, Barry, Milner, A Johnson (Hargreaves 79), Balotelli
Unused: Pantilimon, Kolarov, Nasri, Dzeko
Goals: Balotelli (28), A Johnson (47), Kompany (53), Milner (71)
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Man of the Match: James Milner
City started the game the brighter, controlling possession early on and looking to break the deadlock in the opening stages. But, despite their hard work and pressure, the chance to shoot didn’t come and Villa were able to ride the storm, before forcing some pressure of their own. Kompany couldn’t intercept a low cross and Agbonlahor missed his kick. The Villa man then stole the ball from Lescott, but Hart was there to save the one-on-one.
But soon City got into their stride: Balotelli had an effort that Milner backheeled onto the post, before a Barry cross was inches away from a decisive touch and Yaya Toure forced a comfortable save out of the former City keeper Given. The Irish keeper was then needed again to turn a Balotelli effort around the post for a corner; City were beginning to get on top.
And, on 28 minutes, that pressure paid off. A corner wasn’t well cleared by the visiting defence, leaving it to be prodded back into the danger zone by Richards. Balotelli was there and he executed a neat over-head kick to smash the ball past Given from six yards out. City could have doubled the lead almost instantly, as Balotelli robbed the ball from Dunne, but he couldn’t find Yaya Toure in support.
Bent and Warnock then had efforts blocked as Villa tried to respond, before the same happened to Adam Johnson, as he weaved his way in from the right flank. Balotelli was then on defensive duty, stealing the ball inside his own half, before de Jong had an effort that he smashed well over the bar.
As soon as the game restarted from half time, though, City found themselves further in front. An over the top ball from the left was missed completely by Warnock as he tried to volley clear and Adam Johnson made the most of the opportunity to coolly roll it past the on-rushing Given and into the bottom corner.
Almost immediately, City added their third. A goalmouth scramble inside the Villa box ended with a Gareth Barry effort being deflected around the post for a corner. From that, Johnson delivered the perfect ball to an unmarked Kompany and the Belgian made no mistake in nodding past his former team-mate, as Given couldn’t keep it out. City were looking like they could run away with the game.
Richards and Given then collided from another corner and City lost the right-back to injury. While they were down to ten men, as Mancini waited to hear on the defender’s fitness, a cross into the City box wasn’t dealt with and broke to Warnock at the back post. He rattled the crossbar as he smashed the ball home, giving the away side hope of a comeback.
City, though, were in no mood to let their visitors off the hook. Milner played a beautiful cross-field pass to Johnson, who brought in Barry. The ex-Villain then gave it back to Milner on the edge of the box and he swept the ball into the top corner, again leaving Given rooted to the spot and restoring City’s three goal lead.
With just under 15 minutes to play, Silva should have added another goal to City’s tally for the afternoon after some neat play from Johnson slipped the Spaniard through. He curled the ball around Given, but the ex-City keeper did enough to put him off and the effort was wide of the far post.
City ended the game with perhaps their best spell of possession this season, leaving Villa chasing shadows. Kompany had the chance to double his goal tally for the season as he broke from the back and decided to go alone, but he scuffed his effort well wide of the post. It didn’t matter, though, and City will go into the Manchester derby next weekend top of the Premier League.