Manchester City temporarily went top of the Premier League after Wednesday's 2-0 home win over Aston Villa before Manchester United won away at Fulham. Pep Guardiola's men were wasteful in front of goal and needed until the 79th minute to finally go in front but they ultimately won out in an entertaining match that could quite easily have eluded City if Villa's fitness had not taken a hit with a spate of positive COVID-19 tests and postponed matches recently.
Bernardo Silva opened the scoring with 11 minutes to go from a Rodri assist before an Ilkay Gundogan penalty put the result beyond the visitors and any lingering doubt in the 90th minute. The victory moves City to 38 points, even with Leicester City but two points behind United while Villa remain impressive this season, despite their defeat.
Based on the chances created, City should have won by more than the two goals that actually secured them all three points. However, Villa deserve plenty of credit for the way they resisted their in-form hosts until Bernardo's strike in the face of a Guardiola side that out-shot and out-passed them for the majority of the 90 minutes. City were run closer than they will be by most opponents this season but their ultimate winner through the Portuguese was not undeserved -- even if it came with more Video Assisted Refereeing (VAR) controversy.
11 - Phil Foden created six chances & had five shots vs Aston Villa - he is the youngest player (20y 237d) in Pep Guardiola's managerial career to have 10+ shot involvements in a league game, overtaking Lionel Messi in 2008 vs Sporting de Gijón (21y 89d). Destined. pic.twitter.com/q6PuDcFcB9— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 20, 2021
Considering the recent COVID explosion Dean Smith's men had been dealing with, going toe-to-toe with City for the majority of the 90 minutes was mightily impressive. Also to Villa's credit was the fact they did create chances to potentially snatch all three points as well and might have on another day. The Villans fell back on their newly solid defense and nearly saw it out but the defeat was ultimately a logical one -- even if a second goal was a touch harsh on the West Midlanders.
Such a tight encounter was always going to need a moment of magic to break the deadlock after so many opportunities went begging and Bernardo delivered it towards the end. The former AS Monaco man created enough space for himself to rifle home from the edge of the box past the despairing dive of Emiliano Martinez. City were ultimately worthy winners, but Villa made them work hard for it and forced them to call upon the ability of one of their top talents to deliver.
36 - Bernardo Silva's goal for Manchester City was the 36th effort at goal in tonight's match. Breakthrough.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 20, 2021
Villa's sharpness, considering that this was the senior side's first outing since a loss away at Manchester United at the start of the month, was impressive. However, it became clear around the hour mark that Smith's side were losing steam a little, and outcome that's not exactly for a squad that was ravaged by positive COVID tests recently. Had Villa played more recently and been in better match shape, perhaps the players would have been able to see it out for at least a point.
The City boss will be delighted that his players managed to get the job done after being faced with stiffer resistance than they probably expected from Villa. Bertrand Traore's flash of brilliance in the second half will have given Guardiola a fright at the Etihad but he also would have been pulling his hair out -- if he had any -- due to the chances sent begging by his players in the rain. He will have been relieved that logic was ultimately respected and can feel satisfied that his team are now within touching distance of the summit.