A wet and windy night in Manchester saw the hosts take all three points against Aston Villa – making it the 16th consecutive unbeaten game for Guardiola and his side.
The question on most fans minds at half-time was something along the lines of ‘how is it still 0-0’ or ‘how on earth hasn’t there been a goal’?! City went into the break with 13 shots and nothing to show for it – begging the question as to whether it would be one of those nights.
The second half started seemingly in the same way as the first ended – lots of chances and goal line scrambles that went begging for both sides. The deadlock was eventually broken nearly eighty minutes in, when Rodri dispossessed Tyrone Mings before neatly laying the ball off to Bernardo, who after some neat footwork, blasted the ball past Martinez into the top left.
The game was capped off after Ilkay Gundogan slotted away a penalty just before stoppage time following a handball from Jesus’ goal bound header. 2-0, and yet another clean sheet for Dias and Stones – left City in the top spot of the table at the full-time whistle.
Here are five things we have taken following today’s performance...
Despite looking somewhat out of place during the first half and struggling to get a foothold in the opponent’s box, Bernardo’s late finish was enough to push City over the line for another three points.
It is not unfair to say that he lacked composure early on, and he definitely struggled to impose himself on the Villa defenders and create a spark in front of goal. But all of that went out of the window when Rodri won the ball off Mings, and gave an early pass to Bernardo just outside the box. After some exemplary footwork to create the space to release the shot, Bernardo struck the ball past Martinez to put City ahead.
Foden impresses, yet again!
We really are running out of words to describe Phil Foden. Once again, Guardiola put his faith in the youngster to start for City in a crucial game, where a win will put the side in top spot. With pressure on his young shoulders, Phil shined on the field, and he’s now only two games away from his 100th City appearance at just 20-years-old.
His constant energy, enthusiasm, and desire to take on defenders are some of the brilliant characteristics of Foden’s playing style. The young Englishman seemingly had more time than most with the ball at his feet, as defenders frequently backed away and offered him space to work the ball in to – and that is exactly what he did. What is incredible is we’re still yet to see a noticeably poor performance from Phil, and he seems to be growing better and better each game.
To put a dampener on the mood (not that the weather in Manchester has not done that enough), Guardiola is now faced with fresh injury concerns. Kyle Walker hobbled off the pitch 27 minutes in with a suspected knock to the thigh, and Kevin De Bruyne was substituted for Jesus nearly at the hour mark after taking a knock.
The fixture list is very hectic at the moment, with City facing Cheltenham on Saturday, and just coming off the back of beating Crystal Place at the weekend. Pep will know he needs to rotate some players and give a much-needed rest to the likes of Stones, Dias and Gundogan, and an expanding injury list is not going to help with that.
Cancelo influential again
After Walker’s injury pushed Joao onto the right to make way for Zinchenko, you wondered if it would disrupt the flow of his game and maybe knock him off guard, even despite it being his preferred side. Well, it didn’t.
Throughout the entirety of the game, Cancelo once again impressed massively. When City were in possession of the ball, he pushed higher into more of a midfield role, giving himself the ability to run with the ball at his feet, and pick out pinpoint passes to play attackers in with. He’s definitely starting to find his feet in a City shirt, and after each performance he is growing into more of a versatile player.
Lacking the cutting edge?
After yet another clean sheet and a 2-0 win, there can’t be many complaints. But imagine if Bernardo hadn’t scored that screamer or Jesus didn’t win the late penalty, and the game ended 0-0 with City amassing 28 shots at goal.
There were ample opportunities throughout the game for City to open the score line – yes, we can blame the weather, or the fixture congestion, or the strength of Villa’s defence, but some of those chances should’ve been tucked away to turn on cruise control and give some key players a much-needed rest before the weekend.
City are back in FA Cup action on Saturday when they travel to Cheltenham Town for the fourth round, can Guardiola make it the 17th game in the unbeaten streak and keep the quadruple hopes alive?
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