Aston Villa vs Manchester City. Premier League.
Report and free highlights as Steve Gerrard suffers his first defeat at Aston Villa; Man City edge to victory to keep pressure on Chelsea; Ruben Dias gave visitors the lead; Bernardo Silva's stunning volley doubled advantage; Ollie Watkins pulled a goal back; Jack Grealish booed on return
Thursday 2 December 2021 06:04, UK
Steven Gerrard suffered his first defeat as Aston Villa boss as Man City secured a 2-1 victory at Villa Park to keep the pressure up on Premier League leaders Chelsea.
Pep Guardiola's side produced a scintillating opening 45 minutes of football and took a deserved lead into the half-time break thanks to Ruben Dias' strike and a stunning volley from Bernardo Silva after a blistering counter-attack.
Despite City's early dominance, Aston Villa gave an excellent account of themselves and they hit back straight after the interval through Ollie Watkins.
It set up a tense finish to the game and substitute Carney Chukwuemeka was brilliantly denied an equaliser by Ederson as Man City, who brought on Jack Grealish late in the game as the £100m signing returned to boos at his former club, held on for a hard-fought victory that keeps them second in the table, one point behind Chelsea.
Meanwhile, Villa's winning start under Gerrard comes to an end as they stay 13th.
Manchester City were quickly on the front foot and a stunned Villa needed Emiliano Martinez to deny Joao Cancelo and Rodri inside the opening 10 minutes.
The hosts weathered the early storm and Leon Bailey, who was eventually replaced by Ashley Young in the 31st minute because of a hamstring injury, saw his shot brilliantly blocked by Oleksandr Zinchenko after good build-up play between Watkins and Emi Buendia.
Aston Villa: Martinez (6), Cash (7), Konsa (6), Mings (7), Targett (7), Luiz (8), Nakamba (7), Bailey (6), McGinn (7), Buendia (7), Watkins (8).
Subs: Young (6), Chukwuemeka (7). Sansom (n/a).
Man City: Ederson (7), Cancelo (7), Dias (8), Ake (7), Zinchenko (6), Fernandinho (7), Rodri (7), Sterling (8), Bernardo Silva (8), Mahrez (7), Jesus (7).
Subs: Grealish (n/a).
Man of the match: Ruben Dias.
However, just as Villa were grasping a firm foothold in the game they found themselves behind.
Raheem Sterling's cut back rolled all the way through to Dias, whose strike beat the despairing dive of Martinez to find the bottom corner from 20 yards.
Two minutes before the break, City struck again, taking the hosts apart with a scintillating counter to double their lead.
A sensational move started when Riyad Mahrez and Cancelo delicately played their way out of a tight space inside their own area before Fernandinho's pass released Gabriel Jesus.
The Brazilian's early cross picked out Bernardo and the forward put the gloss on the stunning move with a brilliant first-time volley which flew past Martinez from 18 yards and into the top corner.
It would have been easy for Aston Villa to roll over after the break but Gerrard got the response he would have been looking for immediately after the break as Villa pulled a goal back when Watkins fired Douglas Luiz's corner in off the post.
It gave them belief and Nathan Ake poked Watkins' knockdown behind, ahead of the lurking Ezri Konsa and also surviving a brief VAR check for a penalty.
Unlike the majority of the first half, City had to deal with some serious pressure as Villa refused to go quietly.
Jesus skied Bernardo's cross over when he should have done better with 19 minutes left before Ederson earned City the points three minutes later.
Buendia's skill and strength fashioned a glorious opening for Chukwuemeka but, with just Ederson to beat, the 18-year-old shot too close to the goalkeeper who turned it over to secure City an important victory.
Clinton Morrison on Soccer Special:
"In the second half, Aston Villa were good.
"Whatever Steven Gerrard said to them at half-time, there was a big response and they got back into it thanks to Ollie Watkins' well-worked goal.
"However, first half, Manchester City were breathtaking. They are an outstanding football team. When they get it right and play the one or two touch football, it's so brilliant to watch.
"And Bernardo Silva, for me, at this moment, he's one of the best midfielders in the Premier League.
"His goal is one of the best goals ever. "
Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard: "The performance second half was really good. It maybe deserved that we take something from the game.
"We lacked a bit of belief at the start of the first half. That is a combination of them having top players and manager. We got a foothold and then conceded. The second goal we could have stopped the game higher up the pitch. The reaction I got, I can't ask for more. I think the fans appreciated that. We have come so close to getting something from the game.
"We are playing against a team that have just been to the European Cup final, have world-class players and possibly the best manager in the world. We appreciate what we are up against. But to take them to the end that is a real positive. I can't ask for more effort."
Man City boss Pep Guardiola: "The game we played was fantastic. Difficult game. We knew it. I understand why. Especially after conceding early in the second half, the way we reacted... we played really well.
On whether players will be back from injury soon: "I don't know. Hopefully they come back soon. The doctor came to me and say, 'this guy, this guy and this guy can't travel' so I say 'OK. Bring players from the academy and we go with them'."
On whether they are ready for the title challenge: "Do we have another alternative? So, we are going to face the challenge."
Aston Villa now host Leicester on Super Sunday at 4.30pm, live on Sky Sports Premier League, while Man City are at Watford on Saturday Night Football at 5.30pm, also live on Sky Sports Premier League.