Wright-Phillips shine dims Villa drive

Against a Manchester City outfit languishing in the bottom half of the Premiership, Villa were overrun for large parts of the game as Shaun Wright-Phillips helped inflict a 2-0 defeat on their visitors. The youngster scored a superb goal to add to Jon Macken’s earlier effort before Villa’s misery was compounded by a late penalty save and Lee Hendrie’s dismissal.

A record of seven victories from the 26 previous Premiership games played at the City of Manchester Stadium since the team moved in at the start of last season is a damning statistic but they made a blistering start and a 29th minute goal from Macken certainly did nothing to dampen hopes of improving the statistic, albeit with the aid of some benevolent defending.

With Christmas fast approaching, Mark Delaney decided to proffer an early gift by refusing to watch Robbie Fowler’s deflected through ball. Macken is not really good-looking enough to deserve the Welshman’s adoring attention and apparently felt uncomfortable with it as he turned inside him and sent a skidding shot past the appalled Thomas Sørenson.

It was an obvious blow to Villa’s travelling hoards, whose pre-match hopes had been lifted by the absence of Nicolas Anelka because of a groin strain. The name Anelka inspires fear and menace, the name Macken fosters hopes that we may have a football career yet but in truth, it was little more than City deserved.

Wright-Phillips’ strike on 42 minutes was also just reward for his own resolute display. A quick counter was only half-cleared to the edge of the area by Olof Mellberg where the unmarked Wright-Phillips sent a tremendous first-time strike into the net, with Sørenson again helpless.

The timing of the goal was a cruel blow, not only just before the interval, but also less than a minute after Villa had threatened for the first time when Gareth Barry's pass found Lee Hendrie and the midfielder's low shot was turned around his post sharply by James.

But it was City and Wright-Phillips, in particular, who looked the most likely to add to the scoreline after the break until Richard Dunne made a blatant trip on substitute Luke Moore to present Juan Pablo Angel with a penalty. The Colombian was denied by an excellent save by former Villa custodian David James before Angel compounded his side’s misery by heading the rebound over an open goal.

Hendrie's harsh dismissal for throwing - and missing - an attempted head butt at the noxious Danny Mills rounded off a day David O’Leary will wish to quickly forget. At least Hendrie’s suspension will give Steven Davis another start though, after the youngster was inexplicably dropped following an adroit debut on Monday.

It is not the first time the manager has ditched a man of the match winner for a more established player this season – Stefan Postma’s sole appearance was the heroic one against Arsenal – and O’Leary should shoulder some of the blame for plumping the cushions in the comfort zone that Villa appeared to be in for a large part of last night.

Defeat leaves the side sixth, while City move to ninth with their first consecutive Premiership victories since April 2003 and could yet throw their hat into the ring for the battle for fifth.