The Remi Garde era kicked off with a nasty fixture, Manchester City. Top vs Bottom at Villa Park.
Garde, despite his midweek announcement that everyone would be treated the same & the French players would have no advantages, went with all the French speaking players starting or on the bench. Even N’Zogbia was back on the bench when his career looked over as a Villa player.
With only 3 practices to get the side ready, he said the team had mostly worked on shape and hoped the side could keep its shape throughout the match.
Villa kicked off and thrilled the fans with 2 minutes of possession football, where Villa seemed to cause an odd man overlap down the left, but nothing came of it. City finally touched the ball when Hutton’s cross dropped into Hart’s arms.
Villa controlled the half with 52% of the ball, with everything going through Veretout and Sanchez spraying passes left and right. But, as usual nothing was happening in the final third as Villa’s attack seemed impotent and Amavi spurned several chances to cross into the area, trying to get the perfect play to develop.
City looked out of sorts, but still looked dangerous when going forward. Kolorov’s cross shot went through the defence without being touched, Fernandinho hit a half volley snapshot over the bar, Guzan almost let a weak shot go in as it went through his hand, Sterling just missed getting to a De Bruyne cross/pass.
At half-time though the Villans received a truly well-deserved standing ovation.
City started the second half brightly; it became apparent the team had come out to play. Villa weathered the storm well, but couldn’t get a real grip on the game.
The introduction of Navas late in the first half for the injured Bony was now working, with Amavi fully tied up by the quick winger. A great ball in found Sterling whose header went straight at Guzan’s head and over the bar, Guzan making up for fumbling a tame free kick a few minutes earlier.
De Bruyne should have scored with a simple tap in, but seemed to try to be too clever and his shot went wide.
The appearance of Delph, warming up and then coming on set the atmosphere and gave the game a whole new dimension, but unfortunately or fortunately for the home fans they hardly had to waste many boos on him once he was on the pitch as he looked like a Morris Minor part trying to perform in a Rolls Royce and was nullified almost the entire game.
Villa had thrown on N’Zogbia and he had a couple of early crosses as if showing Amavi how it was done and won corners each time.
Villa players were being caught by flailing elbows the entire game as the ref had to stop the game 4 times due to hands to the face. The final one to N’Zogbia almost led to a Villa goal. City kicked the ball out and after the treatment Gestede (on for Ayew) wanted to throw the ball out for a goal kick. He gestured to Hart to move out of the way, but the keeper moved closer. So he threw it hard and Hart went to control the ball, but it spun up from the turf and came off his body for a corner.
This started a melee with every City defender going after Gestede and the Villa players defending their forward. Rudy almost swept home the corner, but didn’t get the necessary power to keep the ball down and on target.
City had some more tricks and Villa had to endure 7 more minutes including stoppage time. A shot hit the bar and another shot rolled wide.
In the end a great result for Villa and a vital point.
Match ratings. Everyone gets a 10 from me.
Guzan. Still kicking is an issue. But, overall he had a good game.
Hutton. Dealt with everything coming down the left, mostly the impressive Streling Kolorov partnership.
Richards. Quiet but solid. Loved his acrobatic headed clearance and his no nonsense ones too.
Clark. Majestic game. Back to last season’s performances. Left side of defence for him not the right as at Spurs.
Amavi. Kept getting into good positions. Lovely last ditch blocks from Navas’ crosses.
All defenders seemed to not dive in. No bookings for any outfield player I believe!!!
Sanchez. A full game. He began giving the ball away early in the second half, but got on top of it.
Gueye. Very good. Was quiet in the second half.
Veretout. Getting better with every game. 83% passing 74 touches. 3 Recoveries. Dispossessed- ZERO. Says it all.
Gil. So good. Again tired out early, so can we forgive Sherwood for Leicester?
Sinclair. Got into the box well, linked with Amavi well.
Ayew. Still needs to pass. He had Veretout streaming into the box on a give and go. Worked his socks off
Gestede. Had best chance when he came on
N’Zogbia. 2 good crosses
Bacuna. Worked hard