Few Aston Villa fans were relishing the trip to The Emirates Stadium in midweek, and even fewer were looking forward to welcoming Manchester City and Pep Guardiola to Villa Park for Saturday’s late kick off.
Head coach Steven Gerrard may have been aware of the fact that if we lost today it would mean our lowest points ever collected after six games in Premier League history, and moreover, the first time we had lost five of the opening six since way back 1986. Gerrard would also go down in our history as only the third gaffer to oversee such a record.
Whether he was aware of that or not, despite saying pre-game he would stick to his beliefs and plan, we saw a slightly fresher 451 set up that featured neither Emi Buendia or Philippe Coutinho.
The first half was hardly fantastic, but you couldn’t dismiss the effort the players were putting in and we were far more organised than usual. However, we were playing Manchester City and despite seeing Matty Cash go off pretty early on with a suspected hamstring issue, 35 minutes in it was still scoreless. Although we had to wait until minute 38 for our first shot off target, equally City had only had four off target and as the opening 45 edged to a close, they hadn’t tested Emi Martinez once.
We even had an effort cleared off the line as the half drew to a close, and it wasn’t a foul.
For all the positives many would’ve taken, the main worry was sustaining this as undoubtedly City still had a few gears they could go up. We were half way there though.
Now, could we surprise everyone and show that was our bad half?
Erm, no. Five minutes after the restart a looping cross caught Martinez out and Haaland easily converted (unchallenged) at the far post. And so it begins – but in fairness, we had done a lot better than many thought and we should’ve been back on level terms just ahead of the hour mark but Ramsey slightly over ran it as Watkins put him through and their goalie got their first. Leon Bailey was the next to try from outside the box but he flashed it wide of the post.
At least we had seen a reaction though. Predictably more chances came for City but Emi had the better of them, or the woodwork helped us out and then the typically Villa remarkable happened. Almost from nowhere the ball arrived at Bailey’s feet as Ramsey whipped it into the box and he absolutely rifled an effort into the back of the net to bring us level.
Philippe Coutinho had the ball in the back of the net shortly after with another worldie, but VAR were the latest to go on strike and the lines-idiot flagged for an offside that never was (funny that eh! Aren’t they meant to wait for VAR normally?).
This was more like Gerrard’s first month in charge before everything went wrong. Whatever happened now, this was a performance, this was a gameplan and THIS almost worked. Whatever issues and problems we can all pick out from this, today isn’t the day for it. This was a performance full of effort, we fully deserved the point and if Premier League officials were actually competent, we’d have been fully deserving of the win – even if it would’ve been a bit of a steal.
I’ve been big on the criticism, I’m not prepared to fault anyone today, well done all, now please just build on this for everyone’s sanity.
Manchester City MotM
3/09/2022 5:30 pm
Referee: Simon Hooper