Manchester metropolis beat Aston Villa 3-1 to move within 3 factors of Arsenal but Erling Haaland had to be taken off with an apparent injury beforehand of Wednesday’s showdown on the Emirates Stadium.
After a turbulent week in which city have been hit with 101 costs of alleged rule-breaking from the most excellent League, Pep Guardiola’s facet roared into a 3–purpose first-half of lead via Rodri (4), Ilkay Gundogan (39) and a Riyad Mahrez penalty (45+1).
however Haaland, scorer of 25 most effective League desires this season and writer of metropolis‘s 2d, had to be withdrawn on the wreck because of an obvious thigh damage, becoming a doubt for Wednesday’s trip to Arsenal, with Ollie Watkins then pulling a aim returned for Villa (sixty one).
That purpose ensured Unai Emery’s facet averted a heavy defeat, the traffic improving after half-time having been absolutely ruled inside the first period, but the harm was already completed at that point, making sure city capitalised on Arsenal’s failure to overcome Brentford.
- Erling Haaland talks with Pep Guardiola during the first halfGuardiola’s side now head to the Emirates Stadium knowing victory would put them top of the Premier League table on goal difference, but whether they can call on Haaland remains to be seen.
“He had a big knock, he wasn’t comfortable,” Guardiola told Sky Sports afterwards. “We didn’t want to take a risk. We’ll see. We’ll assess in the next days.”
Player ratings – Rodri excels
Man City: Ederson (6), Walker (6), Dias (7), Laporte (7), Rodri (9), Gundogan (8), De Bruyne (7), Silva (7), Mahrez (8), Grealish (7), Haaland (7).
Subs: Akanji (6), Alvarez (6), Foden (6), Ake (n/a).
Aston Villa: Martinez (7), Young (6), Konsa (7), Chambers (5), Digne (5), Kamara (6), Luiz (7), Ramsey (6), Watkins (7), Buendia (6), Bailey (6).
Subs: Duran (7), Moreno (7), McGinn (7), Cash (6), Coutinho (7).
Player of the match: Rodri
How City claimed a much-needed win
Guardiola had struck a defiant tone on the charges levelled at City in the lead-up to the game, with supporters loudly booing the Premier League anthem before kick-off, and there was a clear determination to prove a point on the pitch as well as off it.
Pep Guardiola reshuffled his pack defensively, fielding Ruben Dias, Aymeric Laporte and Kyle Walker in a Man City back three.
Aston Villa boss Unai Emery made one enforced change, with Calum Chambers replacing the injured Tyrone Mings.
Rodri celebrated his opening goal, powered in at the near post from Mahrez’s corner, by thumping the badge on his chest and the Spaniard almost set up a second shortly afterwards, his pass releasing Gundogan, whose effort was well saved.
City continued to pin Villa back, with Calum Chambers subjected to a bruising first 45 minutes on his first Premier League start since August, and the hosts created a succession of other chances, Jack Grealish twice going close before Gundogan scored the second.
Haaland came into the game having failed to register a shot against Tottenham but he caused Villa problems and was the architect of the second, accelerating onto a loose ball after a poor Chambers header, then picking out Gundogan at the far post.
City were rampant at that point and the third goal came when Grealish, eager to impress against his former side, won a penalty off Jacob Ramsey, and, following some discussion about who would take it, Mahrez stepped up to beat Martinez.
By that point, Haaland appeared to have picked up a thigh problem and he did not emerge for the second period, with Ruben Dias also withdrawn as Julian Alvarez and Manuel Akanji joined the fray.
It appeared City were picking up where they left off when Rodri saw a low effort well saved by Emiliano Martinez, but defensive sloppiness crept into their performance after that as Emery’s substitutions inspired some improvement from the visitors.
The goal came when Bernardo Silva, deployed in an unusual midfield-cum-left-back role, was robbed of possession in his own half, allowing Douglas Luiz to release Watkins, who finished coolly.
Ezri Konsa made a goalline block from Julian Alvarez and Mahrez scooped another glorious chance over the bar, but Villa continued to look dangerous at the other end, with Jhon Duran crashing a shot against Ederson’s bar and Philippe Coutinho, another substitute, also threatening.
That defensive shakiness ensured this was not quite the City statement of intent it looked like it might be at half-time. Haaland’s injury is a worry too. But the victory was much needed after the 1-0 loss to Tottenham and gives the defending champions the opportunity to go back to the top of the pile on Wednesday.
Guardiola: Haaland took a big knock
Man City boss Pep Guardiola told Sky Sports: “We played a really good game. We played better in the second half. I had the feeling we were going to score more but after we concede always at 3-1 in the Premier League it’s open, but in general we played a good game.”
On Erling Haaland’s injury scare, he added: “He had a big knock, he was comfortable and we didn’t want to take a risk. We will see and assess in the next days.
“If he’s not ready [for Arsenal], we’ll play another one. Hopefully he is ready like everyone – we will see in the next days.”
“His presence is really good, he just has to take a look a little bit more when we have pressure on the ball. When the opponent has a high line, we need to find him a bit more. That’s a process, we will do it in the future.”
On reducing the gap to Arsenal, he said: “Finally when they drop we were there to reduce the distance as in the past when we could have put pressure on them we fail. When they dropped points, we fail – finally today we could do it.”
Emery ‘sorry’ for first-half performance
Aston Villa boss Unai Emery told Sky Sports: “We were very competitive away [in our previous games] but today we knew before that it was a tough match and it was like that.
“The first half, we weren’t competitive. They were also clinical but the mistakes were ours today. Three goals we could normally avoid in other matches.
“In the second half we tried to be consistent on the pitch, tried to forget the result and to be again competitive and I think we did that.
“But in the first half they were better than us. They decided the match without mistakes.
“I can only say sorry to the supporters but we continue in our way. Our next match is our challenge, against Arsenal at home. We want to show our supporters a good performance.”
Analysis: Is Rodri Man City’s MVP?
Erling Haaland tends to dominate the headlines with Manchester City and that is sure to continue following his early withdrawal on Sunday. But this was just another game to show why Rodri might be even more important to the team.
Pep Guardiola’s starting line-up had many wondering whether the Spaniard might be drafted into defence before kick-off but in truth he is too influential for that. City need him in the heart of it all and that’s where he was, once again, controlling the game.
The numbers reflected his dominance, the 26-year-old ranking top among all players for touches, passes, chances created and duels. His goal, headed in from Riyad Mahrez’s early corner, set the tone for City’s rampant first-half performance.
It was also his ninth in the Premier League since the start of last season, a period during which he has also registered a total of six assists. They are figures which show that he is much more than just a holding midfielder for Guardiola and his team.
Arsenal know that well. It was Rodri, of course, who scored City’s stoppage-time winner in their last visit to the Emirates Stadium. “We need to show we are better than them,” he said of Wednesday’s game in his post-match interview with Sky Sports.
If Rodri produces another performance like this, then, Haaland or no Haaland, City might well do it.
FPL Stats: Man City 3-1 Aston Villa
GoalsRodri, Gundogan, Mahrez, WatkinsAssistsMahrez, Haaland, Grealish, LuizBonus pointsRodri (3), Mahrez (2), Watkins (1)
City make it 13 in a row – Opta stats
Manchester City have won each of their last 13 Premier League home games against Aston Villa by an aggregate scoreline of 41-7.
Aston Villa manager Unai Emery has never beaten Man City’s Pep Guardiola in 13 previous meetings in all competitions (D4 L9), while he’s also lost all three of his Premier League encounters with Manchester City.
Manchester City’s Rodri has scored more Premier League goals against Aston Villa than he has against any other side (3), with each of his last two goals at the Etihad coming against Villa (also in May 2022).
Only Marcus Rashford (9) has been involved in more Premier League goals since the competition restarted following the World Cup break than Riyad Mahrez (8 – 4 goals, 4 assists).
Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins has scored in three successive Premier League games for the first time. Indeed, it’s the first time he’s scored in three straight league appearances since August 2018, with Brentford in the Championship.