Villa came away with an unbelievable result at home to Manchester City as resilience paid off against overwhelming odds.
Villa started the game and indeed finished it with a 3-2-2-1-2 type formation with the two fullbacks pushing up as Lambert had tried just before and during the awful Christmas period last season.
For 3 minutes it was total Villa possession, but the kids looked terrified to give the ball away and everything was too safe. Finally City won the ball and Milner almost scored. After that the game belonged totally to the away side.
Guzan made a smart save from Dzecko and a Nasri shot deflected wide. In between Villa won a corner and the Witton-enders rose to their feet I suspect to catch a Vlaar or Baker header.
City won 9 corners in 35 minutes, mostly from deflected shots and crosses. One was a Clarke clearance that amazingly went over the bar, from that corner Clarke had to head off the line from a Toure header.
Last season Villa had acquitted themselves brilliantly against this club but was undone by a mistake in the final moments of the half by Clarke. Again Villa found themselves behind in the final moments, but this time the feeling of a decent performance was lacking.
Toure hit a shot that went off Baker and narrowly wide and City had its 9th corner. Villa had lined up 7 or 8 players inside the 6 yd box on every corner and City had tried to exploit it with short passes and crosses from different angles that were all misplaced. This one was crossed, but fell to TOURE whose shot was only seen too late by Guzan and it went in for 0-1.
When Villa started the second half with no changes to the line-up and to the system, I really thought Lambert had lost his mind. City quickly took control of the game and Sylla trying to win the ball; then keep it almost presented them with a second goal with a dangerous back pass to Guzan.
50 minutes in Villa finally crossed midfield with some nice passing, but moments before that I was wondering if Villa’s manager just wanted to keep the score down or did he really think Villa had a goal in them and how would it come? A penalty? A poor refereeing decision?
The answer was a missed call, moments later, by the referee’s assistant. He had been calling City offside repeatedly in the first half and some were dubious calls at best, but he kept his flag down when EL AHMADI slipped in to receive Bacuna’s nice pass and finished like an old pro then rushed to hug his manager.
City players were getting repeatedly aggravated by decisions and things boiled over when Samir “Nasty” swung a boot at Bacuna for no reason. He actually may have only been cautioned for dissent.
Corner number 10 in the 56th minute was converted by DZECKO. The ball came off his shoulder and Villa with nobody on the line went down 1-2.
It was all City again, but they weren’t creating a great deal and seemed complacent with their position. Navas came on for Nasri and gave them an immediate spark.
Great work by Weimann saw him get by two players then lay the ball off to El Ahamdi before being stupidly tripped inside the D. The ref correctly called the foul, but spotted the ball well outside the area making the free kick seemingly harder to convert.
Vlaar seemed odds on to take the kick. The Villa skipper had that look like he wanted it and Bacuna was in no position it seemed to argue with the veteran, but Villa had it all figured out and BACUNA hit one of the most sensational dead ball kicks I have ever witnessed by a player in claret and blue. Hart was left rooted as the ball went over the wall and dropped about a foot under the crossbar and 2 feet inside the post.
Two minutes later in the 75th the almost the entire crowd erupted again. City had an attack with 9 players upfield and Guzan gathered the ball he immediately launched a clearance, most of his kicks up to this point and afterwards too, would be very poor, but this one went true.
Kozak tried to volley a pass on to Weimann, but thankfully missed the ball as the Austrian was now offside it became a foot race between Hart and WEIMANN and the Villa forward won, tapping the ball around the England keeper and there was barely enough pace for the ball to carry over the line, Villa now led 3-2 and with some brave defensive blocking and good handling by Guzan saw out the final minutes even though in the 86th minute I still felt City could win the game.
The PA announcer gave Bacuna the man of the match and Weimann was credited after the game by the studio panel, both great choices, but for me it was the little terrier El Ahmadi that snaps at heels and fouls way too often and doesn’t get much credit, usually, especially from me; who won me over.
I have been trying to say, or rather convince myself, that one day there will be a day when the young lads will realize they are better than they think and some catalytic event will happen and kick start them. There was the time Villa tore United apart with Hogg and Bannan in the line-up only to draw 2-2 and the loss to the same team when Weimann notched 2 this past season. Hopefully this will be it.
Two games in a row Villa didn’t play particularly well but grabbed maximum points and the bitter midweek defeat to Tottenham is almost forgotten.