10-man Manchester City overcame an early red card and earlier concession to beat 10-man Aston Villa 2-1 on Wednesday at Villa Park.
The slumping Premier League leaders looked set to open the door to the throne room just a crack when a John Stones error helped Villa take a first-minute lead and then perhaps again when Stones was sent off shortly after City had claimed a 2-1 lead.
City moves 11 points clear of second-place Manchester United, who can still claim 18 points.
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But Aston Villa’s Matty Cash took two quickfire second-half yellow cards and both teams played the final 33 minutes plus stoppage with 10 men.
Man City got goals from Rodri and Phil Foden, both assisted by Bernardo Silva, and rarely looked troubled even after going behind a goal and then a man.
John McGinn scored for Villa, who had under 30 percent possession despite playing 15 minutes up a man.
Villa fails to move ahead of 10th-place Leeds and ninth-place Arsenal but still has a match-in-hand on the pair of sides who sit two points ahead of it.
WATCH ASTON VILLA – MAN CITY STREAM LIVE
Three things we learned from Aston Villa – Man City
1. John Stones awful half puts City in a bind: John Stones’ renaissance has been one of the feel-good stories of the season, but the English was center back was far from good on Wednesday. His “wyd?” clearing attempt led to McGinn’s goal after 35 seconds and his flubbed clearance that turned into a cleat to the thigh of Jacob Ramsey was caught by VAR and sent the back packing with a straight-red. That’s three games out, so he may miss the day City clinches the league.
2. Is anyone more suited to go down a man, though? There were some Italian national team games In the early 2000s in which the possession-suited Azzurri went up a goal and then just dared teams to get the ball off of them. That happened when City went up 2-1 and persisted even after the Stones red card. Pep Guardiola’s men had over 70 percent possession in the game, including 79 in a first half that saw them complete nearly five times as many passes as the hosts (371-76). If there was ever a game that called out for Jack Grealish, it was this one, as Villa’s only dangerous moment came with 89 minutes to play. Zzzzz.
3. Bernardo is City’s quiet hero: The amazing thing about City under Guardiola is that players have changed who drives the club’s success on an almost seasonal basis. Yes, Kevin De Bruyne and Rodri are the full-time heroes, but Leroy Sane was the focal point of a City title run. David Silva has been the straw that stirs the drink, as has Raheem Sterling. But Bernardo is Mr. Consistency. Look back to 2018-19 when he had 13 goals and 14 assists in around 4000 minutes and you’d feel he’s off the pace, but his two assists Wednesday given him five goals and nine assists in around 2800 minutes this season. Project that to 4000 and he’d have seven and 12. Not too far off, is it?
Man of the Match: Phil Foden
He’s arrived, hasn’t he? Pep Guardiola’s long construction of the Stockport Iniesta may be rebranded as the Stockport Silva, because he’s doing the silky things we saw from City’s longtime Spaniard.
How about this no-look finish. Better watch the feet and not the eyes, defenders.