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- Sat, 23 Jan 2021 22:11:51 +0000: Aston Villa 2-0 Newcastle: Premier League – as it happened - Aston Villa | The Guardian
Ollie Watkins broke his recent scoring duck and Bertrand Traoré also scored as Villa brushed aside Newcastle, who were poor
Here’s Paul Doyle’s report from Villa Park.
Villa goalscorer Ollie Watkins speaks.
I feel like it’s been a long time coming, I’ve been unlucky. It’s been frustrating but I was happy when I saw hit the ball in the back of the net. As a striker you always want to score goals. To be honest I kept my eyes on the ball and then it was in the back of the net. We’ve been unlucky, played against a few decent sides, hopefully we can pick up and go again. The second half we were sloppy, all of us. If we concentrated more, we could have punished them.
Here’s a measure of Newcastle’s recent form.
Newcastle United. 1 goal in their last 8 games in all comps (a consolation in a defeat). Winless in their last 10. Conceded 10 in their last 5. Still - despite all available evidence - 7 points above the relegation zone.
Oliver Lewis gets in touch and he’s not holding back. “While Newcastle being rubbish does indeed drive us fans mad, we are also quite used to it. What does drive us mad is pundits and the like continually explaining that we aren’t entitled to enjoy watching our football at all (regardless of league position) and it’s all we can expect for finishing 13th every season. We may go down this season but frankly the football we are playing is worse. We invest badly and Bruce was very happy to boast about it until now suddenly he has bad players we would never have chosen. Yes, Rafa was negative a lot of the time. There was positive progress, his last 6 months we were actually a good side. Then we sold our attacking threat and bought Joelinton. Our defence was also good, and those players are still here, and somehow our defence is now bad. Wonder what could have caused that.”
Villa were excellent, Newcastle listless, and Steve Bruce’s credibility on Tyneside will have been done no good by that performance. If Villa win their games in hand they can climb above Liverpool. Ten without a win for Newcastle who drop down a place after that.
90+2 min: Bruce is still shouting the odds, mostly to himself, as Gayle heads wide. It was not the biggest of chances but Newcastle have really been feeding off scraps.
90 min: Steve Bruce is doing the muttering to himself now. There will be four more minutes to play for his beleaguered team.
89 min: Jack Grealish looking to the skies in anguish at, yes, being brought off the field with two minutes to play.
88 min: Final sub for Villa. On comes Jacob Ramsey for Grealish. who doesn’t look too happy with having to leave the field. He does some muttering to himself.
86 min: Watkins goes down in the penalty area. But nothing doing there. He simulated, to put it politely.
85 min: Newcastle’s period of good play lasted about five minutes. They are now in the acceptance phase. Villa are sat back and looking good for their the three points. Shelvey launches a cross in and it’s headed away with ease.
83 min: Trezeguet is fouled by Saint-Maximin. Villa send up the big guns and Grealish’s free-kick is headed wide by Mings.
82 min: Villa’s turn to be lifted by their subs? They step up a gear.
80 min: Two Villa subs: off go Barkley and on comes El Ghazi. Traore, the goalscorer, comes on for Trezeguet.
And Newcastle make one too: off goes Almiron who worked hard, for Dwight Gayle.
79 min: Mary Waltz nails it: “Newcastle shows a lack of offensive intent until the closing moments of a match when they go into desperation mode. This constant listless behaviour must drive their supporters nuts.”
78 min: Hayden’s cross is cleared by Cash but Newcastle push on. Saint-Maximin is stopped in his tracks by Cash too. More pressure from the visitors too.
76 min: This game more even now in terms of territory, and Villa more set on sitting back and using the counter.
75 min: A Newcastle attack forces a corner, and the move is started by Saint-Maximin. Fraser has looked lively too. The corner, with no Andy Carroll, is not great.
73 min: Grealish has a shot, after Shelvey loses the ball and then appears to give up any hope of winning it back. Barkley releases the main man but the shot is deflected wide. Newcastle get the resultant corner clear.
72 min: Konsa steps out to avert the danger of Fraser charging through.
71 min: Shelvey’s cross comes in, but no Newcastle takers. And here come Saint-Maximin and Fraser for Carroll and Manquillo. ASM has to head back for a moment to take off his necklace. After all, he’s not played for 11 games.
69 min: Manquillo gets the ball in his chops. Here comes Saint-Maximin, whose thigh seems to be strapped up. But not just yet. Newcastle’s bench as slow-motion as the team.
67 min: Schar concedes a Villa corner. Grealish takes, and it comes out. Traore chips it to the back post. Watkins heads down and Barkley backheels over. There was some improv for you.
66 min: Saint-Maximin is readying himself to return. Newcastle need what he can provide; adventure, skills, improvisation. But that’s asking a lot of someone who has been out with what he is recovering from.
64 min: Manquillo and Targett smash into each other with the Spaniard going down with a scream. Then Shelvey clatters Grealish, who then seems to leave an elbow in the vicinity of Shelvey’s head. It’s something and nothing. Manquillo eventually carries on.
63 min: Newcastle win a free-kick from which they can attack the Villa box. Shelvey targets Carroll but the ball never gets to him.
61 min: Wilson wins the ball and has to set a Newcastle attack all of his own. When five defenders surround him, he loses the ball.
60 min: Dean Smith, up in the stands, must have enjoyed watching his team; most people beyond Newcastle fans will have done. Villa are dominating.
58 min: Newcastle attempt an attack. Their choice of weapon is the ‘diag’ to Carroll. It comes to nothing. And Villa can start passing again.
56 min: Villa pushing on, Grealish finding space and enjoying himself. Callum Wilson is sighted; it’s been a while. But then Grealish goes on and is fouled by Lascelles, who is promptly booked.
54 min: Nasty foul by Andy Carroll, lazy rather than vicious and he gets a yellow for his kick on Nakamba.
53 min: Villa dally on the ball but Newcastle’s interest in chasing it down seems negligible. It doesn’t, sadly, look a team playing for their manager.
51 min: It takes Almiron, tracking back to stop Barkley and Grealish fashioning a chance. Newcastle have begun this half almost as listlessly as they ended the first.
50 min: Grealish strutting in midfield as Konsa steps up. This is a team comfortable with each other, the opposite of Newcastle in fact.
48 min: Villa go close, very close. First, Watkins has his shot saved up close by Darlow. It comes out to Douglas Luiz who swings and misses. Newcastle were all over the place there.
46 min: We are back underway with no changes, though Newcastle’s main hope seems to be the return of Allan Saint-Maximin, who has missed a lot of football when suffering from the aftereffects of the virus.
I am reminded that if Villa win this then Frank Lampard’s Chelsea drop to ninth.
Graeme Thorn has also been in touch: “This game has shown the difference in ambition between Aston Villa and Newcastle. Villa look like they are continually striving to improve, whereas Newcastle’s aim appears to be to stay lower mid-table, and no better. How much of that is down to Dean Smith and Steve Bruce is in question, but surely the Newcastle fans can’t be happy with how things are going at their club.”
The StellaRossa gets in touch: “Villa are a genuine top 6 side. It takes time to shake off a reputation and the stink of a decade of poor performances with equally poor coaches but this is Villa’s watershed season.”
Ben Fisher was at Cheltenham Town to see the minnows go close to a shock.
Jack Grealish is smiling, and well he might. He helped set up the goal that meant this ended an excellent half with a two-goal lead. Newcastle have been ponderous, particularly in defence. Their attacking hasn’t been much cop, either.
45 min: Two minutes added on until Brucey can explode in the Newcastle dressing room.
44 min: Douglas Luiz goes close, having been shown the chance to shoot by Newcastle’s statuesque defenders. Villa smell blood. Newcastle need smelling salts.
43 min: Have Villa been two goals better? Probably.
Lascelles is forced to concede a Villa corner. Grealish’s inswinger is nocked out, and then comes back out. Grealish switches the ball back. Traore steps up and then rattles the ball off the bar.
40 min: Some pretty impressive possession football by Villa here. Less so by Newcastle who nevertheless fashion an attack, and fail to find Carroll. Martinez is fouled by the big man as Lewis crossed from the byline.
38 min: Villa playing patiently now, waiting for gaps in the Newcastle defence to exploit. It takes a panicky Jamal Lewis to clear the danger but Villa come back at it.
36 min: Long hoik forward from Newcastle? No, they choose to play it on the ground. And get nowhere. And Traore almost gets away when Schar goes to sleep. This time, Darlow remembers to use his hands.
34 min: Villa have the ball in the net, and Watkins finishes, celebrates and then pounds the floor when the offside flag comes up. He had just misjudged the run off a Grealish pass.
32 min: A slight Villa panic. Almiron pings one in, Carroll can’t get a clean hit on it, and Martinez fumbles at the first time of asking. The ball drops and he falls on it, just as Carroll clattered in.
30 min: Newcastle, aside from Shelvey and Almiron’s darts, are looking a tad one-dimensional. This may not be news to members of the Toon Army.
28 min: A Carroll header, downwards after a Manquillo cross. He was perhaps a little far out to make much of that.
27 min: We’re told Newcastle looked at Wilson and Watkins. While one has scored Premier League goals for Bournemouth, the other looks a far more willing runner.
26 min: Another look at Watkins’ goal and it looks as if Karl Darlow forgot to use his hands. They were by his side. How odd. Meanwhile, Schar is booked for a tackle on the busy Watkins.
24 min: Newcastle stepping it up? Carroll swings a leg and tries to volley a pass away to Wilson. Andy is no longer the most mobile player in football. Not that he was, but he used to motor along with a head of steam up.
23 min: Shelvey’s pass and Lewis’s cross force a first Newcastle corner. Lascelles charges at it, and it takes Mings to clear what looked a goalward header.
21 min: Konsa steps out, and looks the business in Villa’s midfield. Targett, another mainstay, also does well in cutting off Hendrick. Villa first to the ball all night so far.
19 min: Villa are dealing far better with Newcastle’s crossing than their opponent is with theirs.
18 min: Close! Traore chips up a free kick and Barkley heads over. Newcastle look hugely vulnerable to the crossed ball. Steve Bruce the player would have not allowed this to happen. His team, though, have been hapless.
16 min: Villa already look more confident. They are not sitting back on their lead. This time, Grealish loses the ball when he looks to have a chance at testing Darlow.
14 min: That was poor Newcastle defending on the flanks and from Schar, who while a tad unlucky, didn’t do enough to get the ball away. Switching defensive formations can mean confusion in a team.
Targett’s ball from the wing, Schar’s desperate mistake loops the ball up for Watkins, who gratefully ends his goal drought with a header over Darlow.
12 min: Oliver Lewis has a tactical observation: “It appears Hayden is actually playing centre back and we have 3 at the back. Considering how recently Bruce angrily asserted we do thing’s ‘my way’ and go to 4-4-2 is this the quickest humiliating climbdown in recent football history?” There have been quicker, and thanks for noticing the pattern.
11 min: First glimmer of a chance for Villa? Targett’s cross and Watkins is just - just put off his stride by Schar.
10 min: Andy Carroll, with his collection of ponytails, clatters Douglas Luiz. He escapes a yellow card, and Luiz escapes serious injury.
9 min: Newcastle are pushing up on Villa. They’ve not been the negative team of Toon Army lore so far.
7 min: Martinez rushes out to claim a cross aimed for Carroll and tries to start a counter. Villa eventually settle into a passing move, which concludes with Cash’s cross being headed out.
6 min: Villa corner, taken short, Traore’s chip comes back out to Targett but Darlow is equal to the shot. Schar’s pass to Shelvey catches Villa unawares until Martinez storms out and smashes the ball into the stands.
4 min: Jack Grealish tries to win a foul. He fails, and Almiron scampers away. As so often, his shot is not the best. He’s a good player with the sting of a butterfly.
3 min: Callum Wilson on the flank takes a pass from Shelvey, looks up but misses the run of Almiron. Wilson looks to be drifting left with Andy Carroll centre crash.
1 min: We are away, after the players take the knee. Newcastle look to be sat in a 4-4-2, as Brucey always likes it, though he did play three at the back when he was Hull City manager.
The players take to the field at Villa Park, that long walk from the corner to the centre circle. It’s only Marvelous Nakamba’s second Premier League appearance of the season as John McGinn had been an ever-present until now.
Steve Bruce speaks, and tersely.
A couple with injury, we have been hit in one area which is central defence. The one thing we have done is change a lot due to illness. They have recovered after suffering through Covid. That’s the captain [Jamaal Lascelles] fit and Saint-Maximin fit who has been struggling for six or seven weeks. We’ve found it’s the aftereffects, a lot of them have been struggling with the fatigue.
With Dean Smith on the naughty step, John Terry is on media duties tonight for Aston Villa.
Pretty similar, me Shakey (Craig Shakespeare) and the gaffer usually sit up high near the directors’ box, and then get the message down to Richard [O’Kelly] and Cuts [Neil Cutler] on the bench. It feels like a while, it’s nice coming home. It’s good to be home, players feel comfortable but we’re up against a tough side. I was just speaking to Steve who’s a great manager. We have got to be careful. They are good on the transitions and counterattacks. But we are at home and fancy ourselves.
This game was supposed to have been played in December but was the first Premier League match postponed due to Covid-19, and an outbreak within Steve Bruce’s squad.
What did those teams mean? Marvelous Nakamba is recalled into Villa’s midfield as John McGinn is suspended after receiving his fifth yellow of the season. Steve Bruce makes four changes to his Newcastle team. Javier Manquillo, Fabian Schar, Isaac Hayden and Jeff Hendrick are recalled come in, while Saint-Maximin is on the bench as expected. Ryan Fraser accompanies him, returning after his silly sending-off at Sheffield United.
Dean Smith will not be in the dugout tonight, as he is serving a one-match ban for his ref rage during the Manchester City defeat. He also got fined £8,000 for disputing an offside decision. He looked to be in the right, but it turned out that none of us knew the rules. Which these days is part of life.
Could Steve Bruce be getting a tad obsessed with his predecessor? He wouldn’t be the only Geordie to do so.
Aston Villa: Martinez, Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett, Douglas Luiz, Nakamba, Traore, Barkley, Grealish, Watkins.
Subs: Heaton, Taylor, Trezeguet, El Ghazi, Engels, Guilbert, Elmohamady, Davis, Ramsey.
Newcastle: Darlow, Manquillo, Schar, Lascelles, Lewis, Almiron, Shelvey, Hayden, Hendrick, Wilson, Carroll.
Subs: Dubravka, Matthew Longstaff, Joelinton, Saint-Maximin, Ritchie, Gayle,
Krafth, Fraser, Murphy.
Referee: Simon Hooper (Wiltshire)
Both are managers in charge of the club they supported as boys, but there is real difference in the perceptions with which fans receive Dean Smith and Steve Bruce. Deano is beloved by Villa fans, appreciative of his pulling the club back into the Premier League, something Bruce failed to achieve during his time in charge of the club. They have also been graced with Smith’s embracing of attacking football, and his freeing up Jack Grealish to become one of the main attractions in the Premier League. Bruce, meanwhile, just doesn’t appear to have been able to win hearts and minds, and that’s despite his team not being much more defensive than that of Rafa Benítez, coincidentally back available after his Chinese adventure came to an end this weekend. Brucey adopted the vernacular of the Gallowgate when describing his team’s loss as “frigging hopeless the other night; we were absolutely s***e”. It doesn’t seem to have won over too many, despite there being some mitigation for Newcastle’s recent slide. Allan Saint-Maximin, the player who supplied a bit of magic, is finally back in the ranks, having had a hard time recovering from Covid-19. And Jamaal Lascelles, the captain, has similarly struggled. But no wins since 12 December would put anyone under pressure, and particularly when the team play as timidly as they. An opponent who ran Manchester City very close in midweek looks a tough proposition.
Kick-off 8pm, join me.Continue reading...
- Sat, 23 Jan 2021 22:03:04 +0000: Watkins and Traoré on target as Villa pile pressure on Bruce and Newcastle - Aston Villa | The Guardian
The pressure on Steve Bruce grew heavier with this emphatic defeat to his former club, who swaggered back into the top half of the table thanks to goals by Ollie Watkins and Bertrand Traoré. Newcastle have not won for 10 matches in all competitions and although they are seven points above 18th place, they are far from safe from relegation. Bruce’s position looks even more precarious.
Within moments of the final whistle at Villa Park, Newcastle fans vented their anger over 200 miles away, descending on St James’ Park with banners calling for Bruce to go.Continue reading...
- Sat, 23 Jan 2021 08:00:11 +0000: Ezri Konsa: 'I haven’t got any secret – it’s about learning my trade' | Paul Doyle - Aston Villa | The Guardian
Aston Villa centre-back reveals how listening to John Terry and watching videos of Paul McGrath has improved his all-round game
A weird thing happened on Wednesday during the match between Manchester City and Aston Villa, and it had nothing to do with an obscure loophole in the offside law. In the 52nd minute of City’s 2-0 win, Bernardo Silva dribbled past Ezri Konsa. No other player has managed to do that this season.
“I don’t even remember it happening,” says the Villa centre-back of Silva’s feat, but Konsa was well aware of his pristine record up to that point, which had made him unique. “It was a good thing to carry, the only defender [to have played at least 10 matches] in any of Europe’s top five leagues not to have been dribbled past. Bernardo Silva has broken it, but I’ll try to keep it to one.”Continue reading...
- Fri, 22 Jan 2021 17:00:00 +0000: Steve Bruce likens himself to 'mighty Rafa' as he defends Newcastle record - Aston Villa | The Guardian
- Manager points to similarities with Rafael Benítez reign
- Hopes boosted by return of Covid-hit Allan Saint-Maximin
Steve Bruce limbered up for Saturday night’s Premier League game at Aston Villa by claiming he has equalled Rafael Benítez’s achievements on Tyneside. “Rafa was a world-class manager,” the Newcastle manager said. “But we matched the mighty Rafa last year.”
Benítez’s successor is under intense pressure after nine games without a win, and so could not resist an opportunity to remind the critics that his record is almost identical to that of the much-adored Spaniard.Continue reading...
- Wed, 20 Jan 2021 20:14:33 +0000: Manchester City 2-0 Aston Villa: Premier League – as it happened - Aston Villa | The Guardian
A wildly entertaining game was somehow heading towards a goalless conclusion, until Bernardo Silva’s late, decisive - and controversial - strike
No word from the managers, as the television coverage switches breathlessly to Craven Cottage. You can go there too, with our old pal John Brewin. Should anything of interest be said - and Dean Smith’s interview promises to be lively - you can be sure to read all about it later on this very website. But no need to worry, because Jamie Jackson’s verdict has landed! You know what to do: click, click, click! Thanks for reading this MBM. Stay safe, healthy, dry and warm, everyone. Nighty night!
The Premier League have explained why Silva’s decisive goal stood. Rodri was trotting back from an obvious offside position, but once Mings chested it down and attempted to make a pass, he effectively played Rodri back onside. Here’s the relevant law: “A player in an offside position, receiving the ball from an opponent who deliberately plays the ball, is not considered to have gained an advantage.” Is the law an ass? Well, Mings wouldn’t have played the ball had Rodri not been where he was in the first place. You can understand why Villa are aggrieved, but it would seem City have the laws of the game on their side. A long evening of heated debate stretches out ahead on social media, which is one of the many reasons your humble MBM hack doesn’t go on it.
The win puts City top of the Premier League! That’s the first time they’ve got there all season, and they’re now the ninth team to take pole during this wild and wonderful season. Now on 38 points after 18 games, they depose Leicester City (played 19) on goal difference. United (played 18, 37 points) have the chance to regain top spot by winning at Fulham. John Brewin is all over the 8.15pm kick-0ff. Villa meanwhile remain in 11th position on 26, though they’ve only played 16 matches so far.
It could have ended 8-3, 2-4, or anything in between. But this is how it ends. What a sensationally entertaining game of football. Just a shame there’s a whiff of controversy over Bernardo Silva’s winner, Rodri getting away with interfering from an offside position. But on balance, it would be tough to argue that City didn’t deserve the win over the piece. Villa can be proud of their performance, though.
90 min +2: Four extra minutes. Most of the first two are taken up with celebratory faff. Villa are understandably deflated. They gave this everything.
Gundogan has missed tonight from four yards, and two yards, but he makes no mistake from 12. Batter! City are going top, for a couple of hours at least!
Cancelo has a batter from distance. It’s tipped round the post by Martinez. Villa deal with the corner, but City are quickly coming back at them. Jesus wins a header, just to the left of goal. It’s going wide, but hits Cash’s arm. Penalty, as his arm was miles out of position.
87 min: More admin: Taylor is booked for some transgression or other, while Walton explains that Dean Smith wasn’t shown a second yellow; after the yellow was shown, Smith must have offered some trenchant analysis that deserved a straight red. What a ride this game has been.
85 min: If you thought this game hadn’t been weird enough already, BT Sport refereeing expert Peter Walton has disagreed with the officials over the goal! His view: Rodri was interfering with play, and the goal shouldn’t have stood. And you know what, he’s exactly right. Rodri came back from an offside position, miles off, then hassled Mings, whose mistake Silva capitalised from.
83 min: Mahrez breezes down the right with Villa short at the back. Mahrez thinks there’s somebody with him on the overlap, and plays a pass to nobody. Martinez gratefully receives the gift.
81 min: Villa claim that Rodri was offside during that move. He wasn’t interfering with play, according to both the ref and VAR. Dean Smith takes the protest too far, and is first given a yellow card, then a red. He stomps off towards the dressing room muttering words beginning with eff and cee.
It’s gone in no! Mings fails to deal with a long ball. Silva picks it up, advances down the inside-right channel, drops a shoulder to move back infield, and curls an unstoppable shot into the top left! To be fair, that had been coming.
77 min: This is beyond absurd now. This is positively psychedelic. This is four-years-of-Trump trippy. Mahrez romps in from the right. The ball deflects off Mings and somehow squirts across the face of goal and inches wide of the left-hand post. Then from the resulting corner, Jesus swings one in from the left, the ball shaving the right-hand post. How is this ball not going in?
76 min: McGinn doesn’t have his shooting boots on tonight. A cute roll-back and flick by Grealish tees up McGinn, free on the spot. Fresh-air swipe. Oh my.
75 min: Now it’s City’s turn to escape! McGinn slips Watkins into space down the left. He crosses low. Ramsey is waiting to tap in, but Dias, aquaplaning across the turf, somehow hooks it away just in time!
74 min: Targett has picked up a knock, and he’s replaced at left-back by Taylor.
72 min: City must be wondering how the hell they haven’t scored. Gundogan has missed two absolute sitters, from a combined distance of about five yards. Pep responds by rolling the dice, swapping Sterling for Mahrez.
70 min: A positively absurd miss by Gundogan! More box bagatelle, and the ball breaks to Gundogan on the edge of the six-yard box. He heads goalwards. It’s blocked. Martinez is out of position, and the ball’s back to Gundogan, who merely has to poke home from a couple of yards ... but he can’t sort his feet out, somehow missing it, the ball magically whistling between his legs! Villa hack clear.
68 min: Luiz is booked for a cynical tug on Silva. Before play restarts, Villa make a double change, El Ghazi and Ramsey coming on for Traore and Barkley.
67 min: Watkins is released down the left. His low shot-cum-cross is half cleared by City. The ball breaks to Luiz, who hits a screamer through a thicket of players. Ederson pulls off a marvellous parry in the circumstances. Chances are the flag would have gone up for offside had that gone in, with Barkley lurking behind the last man.
66 min: Luiz slaps the free kick witlessly into the wall. What a dangerous position that was. What a waste for Villa.
65 min: Barkley, to the left of the D, slips a ball infield for McGinn, who purchases a cheap free kick from an over-committed Gundogan. A free kick in a central position, just outside the D.
64 min: Luiz sends a 25-yard riser straight down Ederson’s throat. Tell you what, not much of this game has been played in the middle third. I’d quite like to see the stats for that. It must be some sort of Premier League outlier.
63 min: Some penalty-box pinball down the other end now, as Foden fizzes one in low from the left. Jesus can’t control. Gundogan can only slash wide left from close range.
61 min: After some penalty-box pinball, McGinn slices a shot from the edge of the box so badly that it ends up behind him, curling through 180 embarrassing degrees. Above the piped-in crowd noise, you can hear a cruel, but perfectly timed, “hoo hoo” of laughter.
60 min: Space for Foden down the left. He rolls inside for Jesus, but there’s to be no instant impact for the City sub. He’s swarmed and Villa break, Grealish grooving his way down the left and winning a free kick off Cancelo. A free kick just to the left of the City box.
59 min: De Bruyne makes way for Jesus. He gestures towards the ankle he hurt against Palace. City fans will hope this is just precautionary.
58 min: Foden bullies Traore off the ball and barges in from the left. Foden enters the box and goes for the curler towards the top right, but gets the spin all wrong and it sails miles wide.
56 min: De Bruyne is on the turf again, but only because Grealish has slid in on him late. Grealish offers his apologies immediately. He’s slightly lucky to get away without a yellow, but the referee is probably taking the slippery conditions into consideration.
54 min: De Bruyne reverts to type, his wily pass finding Cancelo, who sashays in from the right, enters the box, and lashes a rising shot off the top of the crossbar! How on earth is this still goalless? It’s been a brilliant game, with chances aplenty.
52 min: This is one-way traffic. Down the left, Foden wins a corner off Konsa and takes the set piece himself. Martinez claims, and launches long for Traore down the right. Traore brings it down from the sky and dinks it infield with one touch, sending - of all people - De Bruyne sprawling on the wet turf! Traore’s away! He races down the right, cuts inside past Zinchenko, but doesn’t quite get enough purchase on his curler towards the bottom left. Ederson claims. That would have been goal of the season, not least because the Premier League’s most consistently brilliant player over the last few seasons was the hapless victim!
51 min: Gundogan, out on the left, rolls a pass infield for Foden, who cushions a return. Gundogan opens his body and looks for the curler into the top right. Not quite; too high.
49 min: Cancelo drives down the right and whips a cross in. Easy for Martinez this time, but Villa are struggling to get out.
48 min: Sterling plays an elegant long-distance one-two with De Bruyne down the right, but his cross, intended for Foden at the far post, is way too heavy.
47 min: City are quickly on the attack again. Sterling opens his body to shoot, having cut in from the right, but Mings blocks.
Villa - who had been happy to keep their hosts waiting in the rain - eventually get the second half underway. No changes.
More half-time entertainment. You lucky people.
Look at that touch from Dean Smith... ✨ pic.twitter.com/Jeyr4jf83q
Half-time entertainment. For your aural pleasure.
An extremely entertaining half comes to an end. City have posed more threat; Villa have defended staunchly and will be the happier of the teams as everyone goes in to wrap themselves in hot towels and pop on some fresh kit. Don’t go anywhere!
45 min +2: Now some heroics from Villa’s other full back, as Targett smashes the ball away just in time, De Bruyne waiting for a Foden pull back to arrive.
45 min +1: City go up the other end and should take the lead. De Bruyne, out on the right, somehow spots, then threads a pass towards, Foden, free in the box on the left. Foden smacks a shot goalwards, but it’s blocked by Cash.
45 min: Barkley advances on the City box again. He’s got Grealish to his left, and Watkins to his right, but opts for the curler towards the bottom right again. It’s deflected out for a corner, reward his poor shot didn’t really deserve. Nothing comes of the set piece.
43 min: City probe this way and that, but Villa hold their shape well. Rodri eventually flings a long cross in from the right. Foden meets it with a header, but there’s no power on it, and Martinez snaffles with ease.
41 min: Foden and Zinchenko combine well down the left, but the substitute isn’t causing Cash as many problems as Cancelo did. Zinchenko is forced to turn tail, and the move peters out.
39 min: City’s eighth corner of the match leads to a ninth, out on the right. Martinez comes out to claim number ten, flaps like a swan, and is fortunate to be awarded a free kick for clanking into Stones. Keepers always get those.
37 min: Barkley advances into the City box and tries a curler towards the bottom right. Ederson holds on well in these sodden conditions, and good thing too for City, because Traore was sniffing around in the hope of picking up any rebound.
36 min: Mings takes his own sweet time over a free kick. The City bench spring up as one, incensed at the perceived time-wasting. Dean Smith, on the other hand, views it as professional clock management. The referee has a word with Mings. For a second, it looks as though Smith and Guardiola are going to lock horns, but what initially looks like a full and frank exchange of views ends in broad smiles and low fives.
34 min: Foden wheechs a glorious ball across the face of the six-yard box from the left. Any toe-poke and it’s in. But nobody in sky blue has bothered to take a gamble. Villa escape again.
33 min: Incidentally, Zinchenko has taken up his position at left-back. Cancelo has moved over to the other flank to deputise for poor Walker.
31 min: Rodri has a belt from distance. Sterling becomes the victim of friendly fire, and the deflection goes out for a goal kick.
30 min: City apply some pressure on the pedal. De Bruyne has a whack from just inside the area. His powerful sidefoot is blocked out for a corner. From the set piece, the ball’s worked to Sterling on the right. He fizzes into the six-yard box, but that one’s blocked out too. The third corner leads to nothing.
28 min: Dr MBM is vindicated! Walker does indeed limp to the bench, after trying his best to run that thigh injury off. Zinchenko comes on to replace him. The good doctor’s hard-won reputation restored!
27 min: Grealish slips Traore into the City box down the left, but with options in the middle, Traore flashes an ambitious effort from a tight angle into the side netting.
26 min: Corner for Villa out on the right. Grealish’s delivery is no good, and City are quickly breaking upfield. Villa are light at the back, but De Bruyne plays an uncharacteristically clumsy pass down the left, hoping to release Sterling but only managing to clump it out for a goal kick.
25 min: Dr MBM is a right quack. Walker, at death’s door a couple of minutes ago according to this report, is running freely again. Zinchenko, who had been warming up with a view to replacing him, has sat back down again.
23 min: De Bruyne heads a pass down the right for Sterling, who skitters into the Villa box and wins a corner off Targett. De Bruyne takes. The ball clanks off Konsa and tees up Rodri on the penalty spot. Rodri gets a shot off, but it’s weak and straight at Martinez.
21 min: It doesn’t look as though Walker is going to be able to continue. A problem with his thigh? His hamstring? He’s down getting treatment, though he springs back up quickly enough and appears determined to play on. Not sure how long he’ll last, as he’s still jogging around very gingerly.
19 min: More space for Cancelo, who is having a whale of a time out on this left wing. He reaches the byline yet again and whips through the six-yard box. Sterling can’t get anywhere near, blocked off cleverly by Mings.
17 min: Although to be fair to Walker, he’s hobbling a bit and grimacing quite a lot. After another phase of play, Grealish comes over again and puts his arm around his England team-mate’s shoulder. All friends again. The tussle itself looked innocuous.
15 min: Grealish and Walker tussle under a high ball out on Villa’s left touchline. Walker ends up in a heap on the floor and isn’t too happy about it. The referee comes over and reminds both that they’re grown men.
14 min: Another corner for City, on the left. Gundogan challenges at the far post. Villa get it clear, after a minor stramash in the six-yard box. There is absolutely no way this match is going to end goalless.
12 min: Cancelo throws a couple of shapes down the left and confuses Cash. He breaks into the box and tees up Foden, whose shot is blocked by Konsa. Barkley over-elaborates with a back-heel as Villa try to clear their lines, but City can’t capitalise on the mistake. Out since November, the rusty Barkley got away with one there.
10 min: And now it could easily be 2-2, and should be 0-1. Villa have a man over on the break. Grealish is in acres to the right of the D. Barkley, driving upfield, slaps the pass straight at Cancelo. Now it’s Villa’s turn to wonder how they haven’t converted a fine opportunity into a goal. This is great entertainment.
9 min: Foden shimmies in from the left, dropping one shoulder then the other, and makes his way into the box. He releases a pearler of a shot, but it’s blocked and deflected out for a corner, which comes to nothing. Just the nine minutes gone, yet this could easily be 2-1.
8 min: Foden dances along the byline to the left of goal. His cutback is cleared. This is breathless.
7 min: Grealish diddles his way down the left and reaches the byline, before fizzing a dangerous low ball into the mixer. There’s nobody in black to receive the cross, so City clear and go up the other end again.
6 min: ... then pour up the other end, Barkley finding Traore in space out on the right. He sails past Cancelo with ease and dribbles into the box. Serious danger for City here! But Traore over-elaborates, torn between shooting from an angle and teeing up Grealish in the middle, and is eventually crowded out. Great start, this.
5 min: Nothing comes of the next corner. Villa relax ...
4 min: A free kick for City out on the right. De Bruyne knocks it in. Grealish concedes a corner. From the corner, the ball drops to Silva, a couple of yards out. He’s got to score, but somehow Martinez gets in the way to block. What a save! Stones tries to poke home the rebound, but Cash deflects over the bar for another corner. What an escape by Villa!
2 min: It already feels like City have made over 200 passes. Villa haven’t touched it yet. Ah now they have, Gundogan spraying a diagonal ball towards Silva on the right, Targett chesting it down to intercept.
Here we go, then. Manchester City get the ball rolling ... but only after the knee is taken. No room for racism. Kick it out.
The teams are out! Manchester City wear their sky blue, while Aston Villa are in second-choice black. Jack Grealish looks in a very chipper mood, exchanging cheery patter with the officials. Some breaking news: it’s raining in Manchester. We’ll be off in a minute or two.
I missed a tinder-dry zinger from Dean Smith: “We’re unbeaten in 18 days.” He’s here all week, ladies and gentlemen. Try the egg.
Pep’s up next. “We still haven’t finished the first leg. We have many games to play for all the teams, so many things can happen. This is the toughest period, the weather conditions are tough, you don’t see the light, you don’t see the sky. Our life is training and go home. Another game, go. That’s just what we will have to do.”
Dean Smith talks to BT Sport: “It’s nice to be out of the house! We haven’t played since New Year’s Day. Hopefully the lads will be fresh but we’ve had the Covid situation and players who have been suffering, so hopefully they will be OK. There’s a little bit of the unknown, but we’re not making any excuses and hopefully this is a team that can compete tonight.”
Manchester City make three changes to the team sent out to batter Crystal Palace 4-0 on Sunday. Phil Foden, Rodri and Joao Cancelo come in; Gabriel Jesus, Fernandinho and Oleksandr Zinchenko drop to the bench.
Aston Villa’s last fixture was the FA Cup tie against Liverpool. They were forced to send out the whippersnappers for that one, so let’s look back to the New Year’s Day match at Old Trafford instead. Just the one change to the team that was unfortunate to go down 2-1: Ross Barkley comes in for Anwar El Ghazi, who is named today as a sub.
Manchester City: Ederson, Walker, Stones, Dias, Joao Cancelo, De Bruyne, Rodri, Gundogan, Bernardo Silva, Sterling, Foden.
Subs: Gabriel Jesus, Zinchenko, Steffen, Torres, Mendy, Fernandinho, Mahrez, Garcia, Bernabe.
Aston Villa: Martinez, Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett, Douglas Luiz, Barkley, Traore, Grealish, McGinn, Watkins.
Subs: Heaton, Taylor, Nakamba, El Ghazi, Engels, Guilbert, Elmohamady, Davis, Ramsey.
Welcome to our coverage of the second phase of an elegant game of leapfrog. Last night Leicester City hopped over Manchester United and Manchester City to hit the top of the Premier League table. Now it’s City’s turn to attempt the leap from third to first, which they’ll do this evening if they see off Aston Villa. The third manoeuvre comes later, when Manchester United visit Fulham, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.
City are hot favourites to beat Villa. They’re bang in form, having won their last five in a row, while Villa’s Premier League squad haven’t played since New Year’s Day thanks to an outbreak of this damn virus. Villa’s players can be forgiven if they lack some match sharpness, then, and of course who can predict the effect on anyone who has had Covid-19. There’s also the small matter of Villa’s historical record at City: they’ve lost on 14 of their last 15 visits, and are on the wrong end of an aggregate score of 33-4.Continue reading...
Historical Transfer News and Team Gossip has been archived below:
- Mon, 25 Jan 2021 10:07:22 +0000: How green are Premier League clubs? Tottenham top sustainability table - BBC Sport
BBC Sport looks at what the 20 top-flight clubs are doing to help the environment.
- Sat, 23 Jan 2021 23:48:00 +0000: Aston Villa 2-0 Newcastle United: Watkins ends goal drought as pressure on Bruce grows - BBC Sport
Aston Villa move into eighth in the Premier League with a win over Newcastle, which increases pressure on manager Steve Bruce.
- Sat, 23 Jan 2021 22:50:11 +0000: Aston Villa 2-0 Newcastle United: We 'gifted' Villa their first goal - Bruce - BBC Sport
Newcastle manager Steve Bruce says Newcastle "gifted" Aston Villa their first goal in the Magpies' 2-0 loss at Villa Park.
- Sat, 23 Jan 2021 22:43:14 +0000: Aston Villa 2-0 Newcastle: Dean Smith satisfied as Villa go eighth in the Premier League - BBC Sport
Manager Dean Smith says he is satisfied with Aston Villa's progress as his team moved above Chelsea and Southampton into eighth in the Premier League with a win over Newcastle.
- Fri, 22 Jan 2021 12:28:45 +0000: Dean Smith: Aston Villa manager to serve one-game touchline ban against Newcastle - BBC Sport
Aston Villa manager Dean Smith will serve a touchline ban in their home Premier League game against Newcastle on Saturday.
Aston Villa are now looking to strengthen their squad for the up coming season with a large number of new players touted to be on the clubs radar in the closed season. The club has been boosted lately by the resigning of goalkeeper Brad Guzan who left the club at the end of last season. The American keeper has now penned a new lucrative three year deal which will keep him at Villa park until the end of the 2015 season.
Another huge target for the club this season is Blackburns Steven N`Zonzi who is also a top target for Sunderland, Tottenham and Stoke City with the midfielder stating that he has no intention of playing football in the championship. The Frenchman is thought to be available for a fee of around five million pounds and would welcome the chance to play in the English top flight again.
Blackpool winger Matt Phillips is also believed to be on the clubs radar as the championship side looked doomed to lose their influential winger as a host of top flight clubs are now vying for his signature. The twenty one year old has had a brilliant season for his club and now looks set to move to the premier league with clubs such as Everton, Wigan, Reading and Sunderland all in for the winger.
Sheffield United defender Matt Lowton is another target for the Villa Park outfit as Paul Lambert looks to strengthen his back line for the new season and the player is thought to be his top target for his defence. Lowton is now regarded as one of the hottest prospects in English football but Villa will need to fight off stern interest from additional clubs such as feyenoord and Bersiktas.