A goal with just 8 minutes of normal time remaining gave the reigning champions a win yesterday and Yaya Toure his third goal in his last three games against us.
It took one brief painful moment to undo 82 minutes of dogged Villa resistance yesterday. Yaya Toure was left in space and neither Cleverley nor Delph had enough left in their tanks to put in any sort of challenge as he ran between them towards the edge of the box. Neither Senderos nor Hutton having also already given all they had then made any forward movement towards his run so he was left free to pick a spot between Guzan and the post for his first goal of this season.
A goal had been looking increasingly inevitable during the preceding 81 minutes as we conceded possession all too often. But as each minute ticked by the belief that we could cling onto a hard earned point grew as did Manchester City’s frustration.
One goal was always going to be enough and so it proved. A second six minutes later was cruel given the effort our players had put into getting something from the game. But our heads understandably dropped and the pace of the game told on our players because hopes of an equalizer have become next to none when we go behind against opposition of this quality.
So we have now conceded 8 goals in losing our last three games. We have scored no goals and have seldom looked like doing so. But these games were against teams that finished in the top 4 last year and will no doubt do the same this year and were preceded by a win at the home of another top 4 team from last season.
Our big test will come following the international break when we meet teams that we should be expected to get points from and against whom he will not start as underdogs. Parking the bus and hoping for a rare break-away goal will not be enough then as some of our opponents will be looking to do the same. We have Benteke back at long last so we will now have a goal threat that given the right service can along with our more solid defence of this season get us some good results in the coming months. Make it happen Villa!
My player ratings from a game that left us outside the top six and with a chasm rather than a point between us and yesterday’s opponents are:
Brad Guzan – 8 – Given no chance with their second and may have got a late sight of their opener which should in any case have been ruled out because Aguero was offside in the build up to it. Brad got down well at Aguero’s feet to pinch the ball on 23 minutes after Silva had played a nice pass through to him and then pulled off a splendid one handed save after Silva’s on target 48th minute shot had taken a deflection. Held a low shot from Aguero on 72 minutes and kept out a Mangala header from a corner 2 minutes later.
Alan Hutton – 7 – Did well to get out towards an unmarked Kolarov and get a touch to his 11th minute shot that helped it onto the post. Alan was solid at the back and decent when he was able to get forward.
Philippe Senderos – 7 – Very dependable again and has produced consistent displays for us.
Nathan Baker – 9 – MOTM – Did not put a foot wrong all evening and was an important cog in what was for so long an apparently impregnable defence. Nathan made a superb challenge on the edge of the box on Aguero on 21 minutes. Showing increased confidence this season.
Aly Cissokho – 7 – Cleared a Dzeko header wide of the post on 45 minutes and gave another good performance.
Charles N’Zogbia – 7 – His runs provided some source of threat to the Manchester City defence. On 25 minutes he picked up the ball in his own half and went on a strong run before hitting a shot from outside of the box that curled some feet past the post. 27 minutes later he did the same skipped past 2 challenges on the way and was only stopped by 2 defenders on the edge of their box. An encouraging 70 minutes.
Ashley Westwood - 7 – Hit a couple of wayward balls but he was not alone in that and otherwise worked hard appearing to relish the responsibility of wearing the armband.
Fabian Delph – 7 – Another excellent hard working display. He now needs to sign a contract to continue his development with us rather than risk stagnating on a bench as his career passes by but the extra money rolls in somewhere else.
Tom Cleverley – 7 – Looks a very good signing and we need to make it a permanent one. A hard working player who does what is needed with a minimum of fuss and is a good fit for us.
Kieran Richardson - 6 – Might have given us a crucial lead on 47 minutes when N’Zogbia played a nice ball through to him but his first touch was not the best, allowed Zabeleta to get a challenge in and Hart all too easily blocked his resulting effort. A decent overall game and we missed his covering following his substitution.
Andreas Weimann – 6 – A late replacement for Gabby who reported ill during the warm up so his preparation was not as he might have wished. Provided us with some pace in Gabby’s absence, worked tirelessly in the lone striker role and also worked well when they had possession which was frequently. Flagged wrongly offside when he got on the end of a 22nd minute N’Zogbia cross but his first touch was heavy and Hart gratefully gathered it when Andi might have been better advised to look to have hit it first time. His last touch of the game prior to his substitution came on the 60th minute when he was not able to get enough of his head to a decent cross into the box to trouble Hart.
Christian Benteke - 6 – Replaced Weimann on 61 minutes. His appearance gave the crowd a big lift and he did show glimpses of the player we all know he is. But he is some way off being fully fit and so being able to put himself about in the way he does so well. His presence even when some way below match fitness produced a rare cause of concern for our opponents although the service he got was very limited.
Jack Grealish – 6 - Replaced Richardson on 71 minutes. It was a brave call to bring Jack on in a game like this one and it demonstrates the faith the management team have in him. Unable to make the impression on the game he would have hoped to have made in the short time he had on the field to do so.
Leandro Bacuna – 6 - Replaced N’Zogbia on 71 minutes. Did well enough during the time he had on the pitch.
Up the Villa!