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Five Things We Learned: Aston Villa 1-2 Man City (Premier League)

Manchester City made it six wins from seven Premier League games on Wednesday night, with a battling Villa Park victory inspired by two of the club's Portuguese stars.

Ruben Dias and Bernardo Silva were on the scoresheet in the first half against Aston Villa, with the latter volleying home a spectacular effort after his international teammate had rifled in from distance earlier.

But Steven Gerrard's Aston Villa side showed plenty of promise, and fought back just seconds into the second half, scoring through Ollie Watkins and forcing Manchester City to hang on for a large portion of the second half.

In the end, it came as a relief when the full-time whistle confirmed victory for Pep Guardiola's men.

Here's what we learned from a hard-fought win in the Midlands:


Dias Breaks Down the Door

Sometimes you just need someone to whack one in from long range, and that was exactly what Ruben Dias did on Wednesday night - with his weaker left foot, no less. 

After some brilliant work from Raheem Sterling (more on him later), the ball came out to the Portuguese international just outside the Aston Villa penalty area.

I doubt many Manchester City fans expected Dias to go for goal, but he caught it wonderfully, sending the ball flying into the bottom corner via the head of an Aston Villa defender.

Without that goal, it would have been a very different match, with the lead ultimately forcing Aston Villa to come forward - giving Manchester City space to counter...


Bernardo's Brilliant Volley

Manchester City's second goal of the game came courtesy of two of their best players this season.

Set free by Fernandinho, Gabriel Jesus - who was deployed through the middle at Villa Park - burst down the right wing, and delivered an inch-perfect cross to the unmarked Bernardo Silva in the centre.

Silva could've taken a touch, but the Portugal star had other ideas.

He rifled a magnificent volley past one of the Premier League's best goalkeepers to double the lead and bag his fifth top-flight goal of the season.

It was a world-class finish, and a nice bit of instant karma after Aston Villa had tried to score with Raheem Sterling down injured.


Sterling Sparking Into Life

It's been wonderful to watch Raheem Sterling return to goalscoring form over the last few weeks, but this was the match where he felt like the complete package again. He had Matty Cash on strings until the defender was hooked for the more experienced Ashley Young.

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I lost count of how many times Raheem Sterling beat a defender, showcasing some of the best footwork we've seen from him since his dynamite 2018/19 season.

He also showed the passing range that's been missing from his game lately, setting up Manchester City's opener.

It's fair to say that Raheem Sterling is in the team on merit once again now, and we'll be seeing him starting plenty more over the crucial winter season.

I couldn't be happier about that.


Injuries Hit Hard

Manchester City fans already knew not to expect any of Phil Foden, Ferran Torres, Jack Grealish, Kevin de Bruyne or the suspended Aymeric Laporte to start on Wednesday night.

But the late reveal from the club that a trio of Ilkay Gundogan, Kyle Walker and John Stones were all also unavailable for the trip to Villa Park quite fairly had a lot of supporters worried.

I thought the side Guardiola put out did very well given the circumstances. That didn't mean the injury crisis didn't have a very noticeable impact. We sorely missed Gundogan's control in midfield, Walker's pace would have snuffed out a lot of the Villa threat, and De Bruyne's spark could have given us so much on the counter.

Don't get me wrong, it's incredibly impressive that we can play this well without eight top players on the pitch, but I don't know if we could get by without some of those guys if they were out for more than a couple of weeks.


A Bad Look for Villa Fans

When he was introduced late on, Villa fans saw fit to boo Jack Grealish. 

Why? Why?

One of their best players in the 21st Century, who stuck with the club through a relegation and helped keep them up when they returned to the Premier League, got his club £100 million when he left through a mutually agreed contract clause.

Does that sound like something deserving of disdain? Not to me. 

I can't say any Manchester City fans were surprised to hear the jeers ring out around Villa Park, but it was still a shame. We were all rooting for the England winger to score a late goal, I think. Next time...


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