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Man City vs Aston Villa result: Five things we learned as Bernardo Silva justifies Pep Guardiola’s trust

Karl Matchett
·4-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Bernardo Silva scored a late winning goal to send Manchester City top of the Premier League table after beating Aston Villa.

Both teams had a host of big chances, with Ross Barkley and Bertrand Traore going close for the away team and Joao Cancelo striking the bar for City.

Ilkay Gundogan also missed a great chance and the match looked to be heading for a goalless draw, before Silva curled in a winner after Tyrone Mears turned into trouble and Gundogan then netted a penalty in the closing stages.

READ MORE: Premier League fixtures and table - all matches by date and kick-off time

Villa boss Dean Smith was incensed that an offside wasn’t given for the first goal and his words with the referee saw him sent-off from the touchline.

Here are five things we learned from the game on Wednesday night.

Villa back in action

Not since New Year’s Day had Aston Villa partook in a Premier League game, with coronavirus concerns seeing their matches postponed.

Their FA Cup defeat to Liverpool took place with U18s and U23s on the pitch, so this was a welcome return to action - and, for 70 minutes, an impressive one. They pushed City all the way, created plenty of their own openings and matched Pep Guardiola’s team stride for stride, but understandably dropped off the pace late in the game.

That was ultimately their undoing, with City’s relentless late pressure eventually telling - although manager Dean Smith was far from happy that the goal was set up by Rodri from an originally offside position, tackling back Mings to play the crucial pass.

Ball carriers

So many exciting dribblers of the ball were on show on the night that the game quickly became basketball-like, those stars looking to exploit spaces whenever possible.

Jack Grealish, Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden and Bertrand Traore were all adept at getting past their marker and forcing another defender out of position in turn, leading more than once to big chances opening up.

With so much emphasis on organisation and ball retention in some teams, these unexpected moments of line-breaking make the two teams exciting to watch when these players are in full flow and they all went at it for the time they were on the pitch.

Defence on Targett

Villa were eventually undone my Mings’ hesitancy and the non-intervention of VAR, but blocks and interceptions aplenty were on show from a committed quartet until then.

Ezri Konsa had a fantastic 2020, post-original lockdown, and he was excellent throughout this encounter again.

At left-back, Matt Targett put in one of his performances of the season and was able to match Raheem Sterling and Co. stride for stride with plenty of tackles, and was missed when he went off injured.

Behind them all, Emi Martinez again staked his claim as one of the league’s best this season.

Bernardo Silva…centre-forward?

The match-winner deserves a note. The Portuguese attacker has had an up-and-down last 12 months or so, sidelined at times last season and gradually playing a more prominent role this term, but this was his first league goal of the campaign.

It could hardly have come at a better time, but it wasn’t just his goal which impressed.

He played in a fluid attack, but was more often than not the one at centre-forward, dropping in to leave space for others - Gundogan and Foden in particular - and his link play was excellent, along with his work rate.

There’s huge competition for places at City but, whichever role he plays, Bernardo might just be becoming one of Pep’s go-to men once again.

City top and Villa’s games in hand

The three points earned here do send Man City top of the table, usurping Leicester who only took top spot themselves one night previous.

It might be short-lived, with Man United able to go back above them later this evening, but a marker has been put down with a six-game win streak in the league.

It’s a four-point gap down to Liverpool now, too.

As for Villa, they still have two and even three games in hand over teams above them and must feel they have a real shout at a European spot this season if they can keep their key players fit.

Read More

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