- Villa breaks a 6-match losing streak
- Manchester City takes sole possession of first place
Aston Villa played an inspired game under new manager Remi Garde, but Manchester City will feel they let two points slip away today as both sides finished scoreless at Villa Park.
Raheem Sterling pinged a point-blank header off the face of Brad Guzan early in the second half, and Fernando hit the bar with a similar chance in injury time as the visitors spurned multiple tasty chances.
Aston Villa opened the better team on the ball, but couldn’t produce a real opportunity in front of goal. The best chance of the opening 20 minutes came to Manchester City in the 17th minute as Sterling sent Alan Hutton tumbling to the ground with a nice touch and fired on goal, but Brad Guzan was there to cover his near post.
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City seemed comfortable through the opening half-hour, despite losing Wilfried Bony to a hamstring injury, replaced by Jesus Navas in the 25th minute. Villa did have one big break, with Carlos Gil released in the 35th minute, but could not collect under pressure from a pair of defenders scrambling back.
Sterling was away just a minute later with a break of his own, but was always looking for the contact instead of the goal, and went down sheepishly under little contact as the chance evaporated.
That was all the meaningful action in the first half, and Manchester City began to take control after the break. City had a pair of great chances in the opening 10 minutes of the second period, with the first a free-kick from Aleksandar Kolarov who ripped a scorcher from just outside the box that Guzan couldn’t hold on to, but the spill fell out of harm’s way and was cleared. Just ticks later, Navas picked out Sterling by himself nearly on the goal line, but Sterling’s header from point-blank range was straight at Brad Guzan, and it pinged off the goalkeeper’s face.
The home side was forced back into its own half by an increasing Manchester City attack, and to relieve some of the pressure Remi Garde brought on Charles N'Zogbia for his season debut in the 65th minute. Moments later, Navas then picked out Kevin De Bruyne free on net but again a City attacker botched a close-range chance, as the Belgian fumbled the ball at his feet and couldn’t get off a shot.
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Villa finally had a second-half opportunity on the 70th minute as N’Zogbia looked for Scott Sinclair in front of goal, but the City defensive line was strong to repel the ball. They played brightly on the break for a spell, with only a heavy touch from Leandro Bacuna betraying a chance on 76 minutes.
The game exploded open through the final 15 minutes, but neither side could find an opening. Manchester City again should have scored as Fernando’s stoppage-time header off a short corner smashed into the crossbar and cannoned back out.
With the scoreless finish, Manchester City moves alone atop the Premier League table for now, but Arsenal can overtake them with a North London derby later on Sunday. Aston Villa breaks a six-match losing streak along all competition as they move to five points on the year, remaining on the bottom of the table.