Match Report: Aston Villa v Manchester City – 28/09/13 Result 3 - 2

The Dolphin's Brain By The Dolphin's Brain, 29th Sep 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>News>Sport

Following the last home game, a disappointing result against Newcastle, Aston Villa's results have been mixed. An away win at Carrow Road was obtained by a battling defensive display, a first club goal for Kozak and the first clean sheet in 27 league games. This was followed by a Carling Cup thrashing at home to Spurs. Manchester City no doubt expected to take all three points.

Before The Game

Since the foundation of the Football League in 1888 by Villa legend William McGregor, if not before, fans of the game have been familiar with those emotions that typically arise from watching ‘their team’. It is the nature of the game that only a few clubs across the world enjoy such regular success that they win more often than they lose, either overall or at any particular point in history. Manchester United, for example, have lost 3 out of 6 this season, have lost over 1200 over the years and have an overall record against Brentford that reads played 10, won 4, drawn 2, lost 4.

As a result, many of us fans have a certain sense of foreboding prior to any game, fortified by an inbuilt pessimism at the approach of a match against a club that is considered to have superior players and resources. Such would have been the thoughts of many a Villa fan prior to the fixture against Manchester City on Saturday. The fact that both Christian Benteke and Gabby Agbonlahor were missing from the match-day squad due to injury (one much more publicised than the other) simply added to the gloomy predictions on social media sites and at the ground.

The David And Goliath Element

The team sheets merely added to the sense that this was a match in which the Villa would do well to keep the visitors to single figures, given the 4-0 loss in the Carling Cup to Spurs a few days earlier and City’s drubbing of Manchester United the previous weekend.

Villa opted for a flexible 5-3-2 formation, although at kick-off, incredulously, it looked more like 3-5-2 with Ron Vlaar, Ciaran Clark and Nathan Baker as the three centre-backs and Antonio Luna (Tony Moon to his friends) and Leandro Bacuna lining up on opposite flanks in a five-man midfield. Once the game was in full-flow, however, Luna and Bacuna were very much playing as full-backs leaving Yacuba Sylla, Fabian Delph and Karim El Ahmadi patrolling midfield. To Paul Lambert’s credit, from the outset the Villa played with Andreas Weimann and Libor Kozak up front.

City’s starting XI, as usual, contained many familiar names; Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Nastasic, Kolarov, Nasri, Fernandinho, Yaya Touré, Milner, Negredo, Dzeko. If a joint Villa-City team were to be picked by the average fan it would be a surprise if any Villa player made the team. Those with greater knowledge might opt for Guzan in goal as opposed to Hart on current form, but even die-hard Villa fans would struggle to mount an argument for the inclusion of another Villa player. This is not to denigrate the individuals at Villa – they are all good players who, no doubt, have a sense of self-belief that would lead them to disagree with me; more power to them. However, Manchester City is perhaps the richest club on the planet and the total cost of the assembled starters was £190 million and the substitutes used, Navas and Jovetic, add another £48 million or so to that total.

Which just goes to show that money and fame are not everything.

Defending The Holte

The first half of the match gave me an excellent view of the action, as I sit in the Trinity Road stand towards the Holte End. Villa spent a considerable portion of the half defending that end with Touré and Nasri running the show for City. City’s full-backs lived in the Villa half and were the focus of many attacks as City stretched the home side for the majority of the 45 minutes. Negredo and Dzeko each had several deft touches, keeping the ball moving and bringing into play their midfielders and wide players and there were frequent opportunities for City attacks down the flanks and crosses from near the byline. City had a few shots go close and had corner after corner, yet Guzan had little to do apart from one very sharp save down to his right and a close range save from Touré after a corner from the left.

Despite their superior possession and overall control in the first half, City’s goal came from a set-piece, one of those corners in fact. In a similar way to how Ben Arfa was allowed the freedom to frequently come in on his left foot to take pot-shots at the Villa goal in the last home game against Newcastle, Touré found Villa’s defenders backing off from him; his long-range shot was deflected just wide of Guzan’s right-hand post. Nasri’s subsequent corner was partially cleared, straight to an unmarked Touré who side-footed the ball through the cloud and between an unsighted Guzan’s legs.

For the home crowd this was a significant blow. Villa had defended well, making many blocks in front of goal and clearing several crosses from either flank due to good positioning and fearlessness. They had prevented City from scoring in open play and the opening goal might easily have been blocked by one of two defenders or saved by Guzan. Touré’s shot probably hit the only gap available that gave it a chance to hit the back of the net.

Inevitably, the pre-game pessimism came back to the fore and many fans were heard to say that they’d be happy with just a 1-0 loss. I felt I had seen as much of the action as I was likely to, given City’s dominance, fully expecting the majority of the play after the half-time break to be in front of the North Stand. Fortunately, Lambert and the players remained in a more positive mood and came out for the second half with the same desire they had demonstrated in the first.

All Change: Attacking The Holte End

Shortly after the break, on a rare Villa foray forward, Bacuna slipped in El Ahmadi who finished unerringly from the right, across Hart and into the bottom left corner. I was more or less level with El Ahmadi and he looked offside to me and the television replays later in the day seemed to show he was marginally off. These are always difficult decisions and, for once, the Villa benefitted from the advantage being given to the attacking team.

City once again took control of the game and despite leaving four back a lot of the time to look after Villa’s two strikers, seemed to have a numerical advantage over the home team’s defenders. Nevertheless, the defending was tireless and whilst Guzan had to make more saves in the second period, City’s goal that restored the lead again came from a corner. This time, Dzeko rose above his marker to bundle the ball in off his back. As they say, they all count, but it is a mark of Villa’s defensive tenacity throughout the game that both of City’s goals had an element of fortune in them.

Having gone behind twice to a ‘top-four’ team, Villa fans could be forgiven for fearing the worst. Incredibly, however, it was in the last quarter of the game that Villa’s midfield took a better grip on the game in an offensive sense. Weimann’s tricky dart from left to right led to Nastasic upending him after the ball had gone. Central to City’s goal and 25 yards out this gave Bacuna the chance to test Hart which he took sublimely, bending his free kick over the wall and into the top left corner. Hart simply watched it nestle in the net, rooted to the spot. He should have done better.

Minutes later, Kolorov’s left-foot drive from the corner of the box had Guzan quickly down to save, grabbing the ball at the second opportunity. Looking up, Guzan saw Villa’s strikers two on two downfield and he launched the ball in their direction. I’m still not sure whether Kozak managed to get a touch or not, but the ball ended up at Weimann’s feet with the City defenders 5 yards in his wake. Hart rushed out unconvincingly and Weimann slipped the ball past him with just enough pace to beat Nastasic’s despairing attempt to clear. The referee and his assistant took some time to discuss the goal, presumably satisfying themselves on the offside question, but the goal was given and Villa led for the first time.

The Final Moments

Villa rarely looked troubled thereafter, despite ongoing pressure from the visitors. The Villa players seemed to gain in confidence and strength in the last 20 minutes and Sylla, El Ahmadi and Delph looked more assured and in control of the midfield. Villa regulars have become used to losing late goals, but the team looked resolute and Jovetic had two successive attempts blocked and saved in the last few minutes. Navas looked speedy and dangerous but Villa held on easily and secured a first home win of the season.

Commentators have said that Villa Park was unusually loud for this game. That may be true, but regulars, and Lambert, know that the crowd is always one of the loudest in the country. As an away group, Villa fans are one of the most vociferous and this is repeated often at home. Saturday was no different. The fans did respond to the players and the team, I am sure, took inspiration from the support.

Like most fans, the regulars at the Villa mostly want players who put in the effort and demonstrate that they are willing to go the extra step for the club. Against Manchester City the supporters were treated to a display of determination and no little skill that does credit to the 12 players used. All the fans ask is that this is what we get for the remaining 32 league games, home and away. With that, the results will come.

© The Dolphin’s Brain 2013


Aston Villa, Bacuna, Dzeko, El Ahmadi, Guzan, Kozak, Lambert, Manchester City, Milner, Nasri, Navas, Toure, Weimann

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author avatar The Dolphin's Brain
I am a mixed bag of lawyer, vegan, environmentalist and sports nut and my writing is likely to be passionate, of-the-moment articles on a wide variety of topics. I also write the occasional poem!

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author avatar Simon edwards
24th Apr 2017 (#)

I came across this well-balanced and pretty fair article whilst researching which barristers' chambers Martin Lugsdin belonged to. I recall the game clearly which City fans to this day sill wonder how they have managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, a feat they have repeated this season on numerous occasions, even under the mighty Pep Guardiola

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