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Premier League: Stuttering Manchester City loses 1-0 to Aston Villa

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BIRMINGHAM

Aston Villa overran Manchester City with a fully-deserved 1-0 win on Wednesday thanks to a deflected shot from Leon Bailey, leaving the reigning Premier League champion in an unfamiliar fourth position and six points off the top.

Unai Emery’s hungry and confident Villa, enjoying their best season for years, dominated the game from start to finish, leap-frogging City to third in the table.

After squandering a hatful of chances, Villa’s winner came in the 74th minute when the pacey Bailey took the ball just past the halfway line, ran at City’s defence and unleashed a shot that hit Ruben Dias’ foot to beat goalkeeper Ederson.

Minutes later, Douglas Luiz struck the post for the host, which could have won by a larger margin in a surprisingly one-sided game, to the noisy delight of the majority at Villa Park.

“It was a great game, great night for the fans, great night for Aston Villa,” said Bailey. “To get the win and to be the one that scored the goal is a magnificent feeling.”

The result left Pep Guardiola’s team on 30 points after 15 games – six points behind leaders Arsenal – and without a win in their last four Premier League matches.

Aston Villa moved up to third on 32 points, two behind Liverpool and four behind Arsenal, after what was its 14th consecutive home Premier League victory.

Such was the dominance that Villa’s 22 shots were the joint-most faced by a Guardiola team in 535 games managing in Europe’s big five leagues. City’s mere two shots were the fewest ever registered by a Guardiola team in those leagues.

SLOPPY CITY

With the visitor’s usually comfortable defence looking rattled and sloppy, Villa poured forward from the off, Bailey and then Pau Torres forcing Ederson into two early terrific saves.

Ollie Watkins also saw a shot tipped over, while Luiz had a goal disallowed as the ball had just gone out of play, and John McGinn missed when through on goal with only Ederson to beat.

City’s best moment came, inevitably, from prolific striker Erling Haaland, but Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez was equal to the challenge, producing a fantastic double save to stop his shot then a header seconds after.

“Today Aston Villa played better and we struggled, especially in the first half,” acknowledged Guardiola.

“The challenge now is going to Luton and trying to win the game,” he added, referring to City’s next fixture on Sunday. “As a manager, I have to find the way to lift them again and find the way to win games. Now we’re struggling a bit.”

City were missing influential midfielders Rodri through suspension and Kevin De Bruyne with a lengthy injury, but still have a deep squad, so Villa fans can reflect on a genuine statement victory that shows their immense progress under Emery.

The manager said his team was of course happy at Villa’s brilliant season so far but would not rest on their laurels and will be immediately preparing to host league leaders Arsenal next.

“We have to be excited but we need to keep the balance. For now we have to be focused on Arsenal on Saturday. I want us to be a team with a winning mentality and be balanced,” he said.

“We are aware of where we are in the table. But behind us is Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham and it is going to be very difficult.”

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