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McGinn scores opener within 20 second but Foden equalises on 22nd minute
Rodri scores header in second phase of a corner
John Stones sent off for reckless challenge with Matty Cash joining him in second half
Never mind the Super League, this was a super performance by the putative Premier League champions. Rising to a proper, old school cold-night-in-Birmingham challenge, Manchester City played with the kind of combination of zest and grit that suggests they could win any competition they enter. Whether they have to make up the rules or not.
“I didn’t seen an impact,” said Pep Guardiola when asked if the week’s events had disturbed his team’s momentum. “We are upset, we learn and focus on the reason why we are here.”
Certainly there was one player who did not seem remotely perturbed by his employers' manoeuvring. It was hard to see behind his mask, but the watching Gareth Southgate must have been wearing the broadest of smiles at this performance by Phil Foden. It is no longer a discussion whether Foden plays in the Euros. He is simply the best Englishman in town.
Guardiola had said after defeat to Chelsea in the FA Cup semi final last weekend that his team had played much better when Foden and Ilkay Gundogan came on the pitch. So it was no surprise that both started here. The problem was Dean Smith had clearly been watching that game too. Seeing how Thomas Tuchel’s side had exploited the space behind City’s right back, it became immediately evident he had instructed his players to do the same. And just 20 seconds had elapsed when Tyrone Mings played the ball down the line into the gap Kyle Walker had vacated. John Stones made a hapless attempt to collect the ball, instead passing it straight to Ollie Watkins. The centre forward crossed between the legs of Bernardo Silva and John McGinn calmly directed the ball into the corner of Ederson’s net. It was the kind of set back that will have City’s owners dreaming up new competitions in which the opposition are not allowed to score.
Clearly irritated by their own complacency, City responded. And how. For the next 45 minutes Villa were obliged to defend as if their lives depended on it. Walker sent an astonishing 50 yard ball to Foden that Matt Cash cleared for a corner; Riyad Mahrez, another restored after Saturday's defeat, jinked and glided and forced Emiliano Martinez to make a brilliant one handed save; as wave after wave of intricate passing moves bore down on the Villa goal, an equaliser seemed inevitable.
And when it came, what a perfect City goal it was. It began with Ederson dispatching a laser-guided clearance to Oleksandr Zinchenko, who chested the ball down to Foden. Controlling the ball in an instant, he passed wide to Mahrez, who played Silva in. When the cross found him lurking on the penalty spot, Foden scooped the ball into the net. It was magnificent, title-winning football. Super League in fact. And moments later, the by now rampant Foden cut out the middle man, jinked his way through almost the entire Villa defence and, slightly off balance, shot over the bar.
With Foden in control, City were imperious, constantly delivering the kind of mesmerising interchanges that were entirely absent at Wembley. What a difference fielding your best players apparently makes. The Villa defence was now resembling an emergency plumber, constantly trying to block leaks.
Then Zinchenko was brought down by Ramsey. Mahrez’s freekick hit the wall and went behind for a corner. It was not properly cleared. And when Silva sent yet another cross into the box, Martinez, who had earlier been clobbered by Cash as he dived to collect an incisive Mahrez pass, came out to collect. Perhaps the collision had wobbled him, because, despite yelling “keeper” loud enough to be heard in Wolverhampton, Martinez failed to get anywhere near gathering the ball. And Rodri headed it into the vacated net.
By now City appeared to be cruising. But then came the most unexpected twist in their title pursuit. The referee Peter Bankes sent off Stones after the Video Assistant Referee informed him the centre back had gone in high on Jacob Ramsey’s knee. It was not a decision Guardiola enjoyed. The City manager went into a touchline meltdown, fuming his defender would now miss Sunday’s Caraboa Cup final. He brought Aymeric Laporte on for the second half (not a bad replacement to have). And his players continued to dominate possession as if they still had eleven players on the pitch. Not that Villa’s numerical advantage lasted long. Two forlorn challenges in the attempt to corral the coruscating Foden saw Cash join Stones in the dressing rooms.
Smith sent on Ross Barkley in the attempt to keep the ball. His first action, though, was to pass directly to an opponent. It has become that kind of season for the Chelsea loanee. And, even as Villa attempted to reassert themselves, Foden and City moved smoothly and easily into control mode.
“His influence in our games is massive,” said Guardiola of midfielder. “He's becoming a serious player. Phil right now is becoming such an important player. His influence in the final third is so important."
With him in this kind of mood it is hard to think City will end up empty-handed at the end of the season.
A great start from Villa, City were back in it soon after and from then on - even with 10 men - they controlled and killed off the game. It's about as good an example of game management with the ball that you'll see. They're just a different level.
90 mins - Aston Villa 1 Man City 2
Fernandinho replaces Mahrez for the final few minutes. I'm not exactly sure why that's needed but it's come a minute after Rodri screamed at him for not offering a passing option while he was under pressure.
88 mins - Aston Villa 1 Man City 2
Foden has been the best player on the pitch by miles. He helps with another rondo on the left wing, then makes a darting run in behind to get onto a through-ball to help City get forward. He somehow manages to spot Mahrez on the opposite side, who takes his time, sets up Bernardo, and Bernardo shoots high and wide.
85 mins - Aston Villa 1 Man City 2
I mean that's just nuts. City pass their way forward, Walker ends up in the 10 position, slips in Mahrez, Mahrez looks for an option in the box and slides a pass to the back post. A defender knocks the ball out just before Foden can finish.
82 mins - Aston Villa 1 Man City 2
City with 75 per cent of possession, including the bit of the game where they were a man down. 662 passes to 423 passes too. They are just running down the clock with the ball.
79 mins - Aston Villa 1 Man City 2
Foden is getting a little wound up at being fouled every single time he gets the ball.
Villa are playing a 3-3-3 formation and I am all in on it. None of this 4-4-1, the standard way of playing a 10 man game. No no no. 3-3-3. Love it.
76 mins - Aston Villa 1 Man City 2
City have just put about 900 passes together going from back to front to back to front and Mahrez eventually manages to get a shot at goal inside the area but is blocked. It's going to take some horrendous mistake and a bit of luck for Villa to get back in this.
74 mins - Aston Villa 1 Man City 2
VILLA HAVE THE BALL. HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK.
72 mins - Aston Villa 1 Man City 2
City won't give the ball up. Players moving in and out of space, always offering an option, high tempo, one and two touch... Villa can't really get close.
69 mins - Aston Villa 1 Man City 2
Davis meets a corner at the near post but flicks his header across the area... and Konsa goes down injured. He's making a fair bit of noise but his teammates don't seem fussed. Aaaaand he's OK soon afterwards.
City in control of this game again now.
66 mins - Aston Villa 1 Man City 2
Zinchenko has a hit from 25 yards but the goalkeeper doesn't even move. To be fair, even if he had, if that had been a metre lower and to the left, it was flying into a part of the goal nobody could possibly reach. Worth a go.
63 mins - Aston Villa 1 Man City 2
Laporte's taken an elbow to the face - totally accidentally - while going for a header and has felt the effects of it.
Nakamba comes off for Barkley.
60 mins - Aston Villa 1 Man City 2
So Villa seem to have reacted by going to a back three.
MATTY CASH IS OFF!
Wow this is bad decision from Cash. He's just been booked, loses the ball to Foden, then tries to recover by sliding in at high speed and getting nowhere near the ball. An easy decision for the referee to show him a second yellow.
56 mins - Aston Villa 1 Man City 2
Foden is so good he almost counts as two players. He holds the ball up around heaps of bodies and doesn't even need to make a pass. When he does he puts Zinchenko in space on the left, but the Ukranian hits a low shot/cross at the goalie rather than cutting it back for a better placed shot.
53 mins - Aston Villa 1 Man City 2
Great save by Martinez! He has to stop a shot at his near post as City get at goal.
Villa go up the other end and Zinchenko makes a weird decision to let the ball go over his head... when it's never going out of play. Traore keeps it alive and City have to work hard to win the ball back.
51 mins - Aston Villa 1 Man City 2
City playing the exact same setup just without a striker. That means Mahrez or Foden - or both - are wingers and central forwards depending on the play. Quite a nice situation to be in where you don't even really need 11 players on the pitch.
48 mins - Aston Villa 1 Man City 2
Ederson shouts at Walker to leave a cross heading his way and Davis almost steals in to score! Ederson knocks him to the floor too... but the ref doesn't see a foul.
KICK OFF 2
We're back! Let's hope that Ramsey isn't injured from that Stones foul. Apparently it's tactical.
I'm still not sure about the red. I can see both why it is and isn't a red card. A stupid decision by the defender though to be absolutely clear. He was poor tonight.
City replace Jesus with Laporte.
Substitution for Villa
Ramsey off, Davis on.
McGinn's goal is...
Second fastest Premier League goal Manchester City have ever conceded (00:20)
Alan Shearer in January 2003 is the quickest against Manchester City (10.52 seconds)
The second fastest Premier League goal Aston Villa have scored after Dwight York (vs Coventry) in September 1995 (12 seconds)
John McGinn's goal has been timed at 20.82 seconds, meaning it is the second fastest Premier League goal this season.
Gundogan is furious with the referee for booking him for grabbing his shoulder while trying to get his attention, right before he sent Stones off.
45 mins+4 - Aston Villa 1 Man City 2
Here's a video of that Stones tackle:
What do you think? Give me a tweet @jj_bull
45 mins - Aston Villa 1 Man City 2
Pep is going nuts on the sidelines at the fourth official. He's really not happy about it.
And to be honest, I'm not sure it's a straight red.
STONES IS SENT OFF!
The referee goes across to check.... and it's a red!?
43 mins - Aston Villa 1 Man City 2
Stones hacks down Ramsey with a wild, late kick at the ball. Var are checking the foul for a possible red card after the referee initially showed a yellow. It's accidental but it's also late and high.
Aston Villa 1 Man City 2
Rodri scores a header during the second phase of a corner. Well deserved from City, they've dominated this game.
39 mins - Aston Villa 1 Man City 1
Mahrez fires the free-kick over the bar.
Meanwhile, Foden is doing Ronaldinho-level skills in the corner of the pitch. He controls a dropping ball with an incredible first touch - like, TV advert good - and then wins a corner for his team.
38 mins - Aston Villa 1 Man City 1
Zinchenko intercepts a poor pass, shoots from the outside of the box and takes down Zinchenko from behind. The referee gives a free-kick having first believed it was a penalty.
35 mins - Aston Villa 1 Man City 1
City have had 81 per cent of possession so far.
32 mins - Aston Villa 1 Man City 1
City with all of the ball at the moment. Mahrez crosses in to the box and Martinez collides with the shin of a defender while gather the ball, taking a bit of a knock to the head. He seems to be OK.
29 mins - Aston Villa 1 Man City 1
Ramsey is taken out of the game by Walker while chasing a long pass but nothing comes of it... and I'm not sure why. Ramsey then takes a shot inside the area shortly after but hits the side netting.
26 mins - Aston Villa 1 Man City 1
Foden is weaving his magical patterns, dancing between about three, four, five Villa players, doing a roulette turn to beat them all inside the box, then getting a shot away which deflects over the bar.
Oh that's a great goal. Phil Foden is next level.
Aston Villa 1 Man City 1
Ederson gets the move started with a long diagonal pass to Zinchenko, Foden drives it across to the other side, Bernardo runs to the line and tucks it back and Foden is perfectly in position to finish at the back post.
21 mins - Aston Villa 1 Man City 0
Good save by Martinez! Mahrez picks up the ball on the edge of the area from a corner, dribbles towards the box and then tucks a powerful shot towards the near post. Martinez has to react, does, gets down to block and makes the recovery save too.
18 mins - Aston Villa 1 Man City 0
Villa with almost everyone behind the ball, City passing around the final third. Attack vs defence.
15 mins - Aston Villa 1 Man City 0
City in control of possession, working the ball around the final third, looking for openings... but Villa are organised and preventing anything getting too close to their goal.
12 mins - Aston Villa 1 Man City 0
Bernardo goes down in the area but it's never ever a foul. He's trying to dribble past players and is a little off balance.
9 mins - Aston Villa 1 Man City 0
City find a way through the middle of Villa's block but can't carve out an opportunity to shoot. Villa push out and the chance is gone, City build again.
6 mins - Aston Villa 1 Man City 0
It's quite close to being 2-0.... what is happening? Villa attack with purpose, cross in from the right, the City defece looks nervous and Walker shields the ball for Ederson with a forward coming in over his shoulder! City looking a little unsettled.
5 mins - Aston Villa 1 Man City 0
Villa have dropped zero points when leading at home this season. A tough task for City? Surely they'll have enough in them to find a way back into this game over 90 minutes.
Ehhhhh what a start! John McGinn has the ball in the net within 20 seconds!
Aston Villa 1 Man City 0
I'm not even fully sure what happened as I was setting things up in this blog!
The players take a knee and then get the game started.
Pep Guardiola on the Super League
I like Pep.
Villa's line-up for tonight
Aston Villa and the Super League
The Super League was killed, now we can focus on Aston Villa taking on a team with the financial backing of an entire nation. Fairness has returned!
Unsurprisingly, Dean Smith wasn't best impressed with the plans for the ESL:
“We’re in the middle of a pandemic and this format stinks of elitism. People have forgotten maybe, that we are in a pandemic.
“Lots of businesses in football and outside football have gone to the wall because they haven’t been able to get money.
“They haven’t been able to work, people have been shut down. The hospitality industry has been closed down for almost a year.
“We’re talking about an elite band of clubs trying to get together for more money so they can try and become unbeatable in the future – because they will have the most money out of everyone. It’s wrong in my opinion.”
“Teams who are winning will probably not be winning in 10 years, that’s the way football has always been. This is taking the competition out of football and that is very disappointing.
“It does sicken me because it was not how I was brought up in terms of the competition. Our owners want Aston Villa to be challenging for Champions League places and to try and win the Champions League.
“The so-called elite few are trying to take that opportunity away from us. That doesn’t sit right with me.
“When I was a kid, in 1971, Aston Villa were a Third Division team. Just 11 years later they lifted the European Cup and should this Super League come about I don’t think our fans will ever get the chance to see their team win that cup again.
“That is because of the elite few. I don’t know what gives them the right to become the elite few.”
To see how vengeful his players are upon their opposition - who had absolutely nothing to do with the politics and shenanigans of their upstairs employers - you can watch it on TV or follow along here.