Aston Villa snapped a run of three-straight losses with a 1-1 draw against champions Manchester City on Saturday evening in front of a raucous Villa Park crowd.
Steven Gerrard’s men put forth a gutsy defensive effort and held City–a side that scored 19 goals in their first five matches this season–scoreless in the first half.
City eventually broke through in the 50th minute when Erling Haaland tapped in a right-sided cross that Villa keeper Emi Martinez could have handled better.
But, galvanized by a positive Villa Park atmosphere, Villa grew into the final 40 minutes of the match and found an equalizer in the 74th minute.
Douglas Luiz won an aerial duel in City’s third and Jacob Ramsey pounced on the ensuing loose ball. The Englishman used a surging run to break into the City box before playing a low, hard cross into Leon Bailey, who finished decisively with his left foot.
Villa should have had a winner in the 79th minute when substitute Philippe Coutinho beat Ederson from just outside the box, but the sequence was wrongly called back for offside.
A pleased Gerrard said after the match: “We said to the players [before the game], ‘listen, outside of the dressing room, outside of Aston Villa, no one gives us a glimmer of hope today.’
“It was important inside the dressing room that we stuck together, that we had belief and we had everyone all in and pushing towards executing a game plan. In the main, the players have been fantastic today.”
Organized Aston Villa show fight
Gerrard has understandably come under fire at Villa, not only because of squad selection, tactics, or his tendency to leave the pitch straightaway after defeats, but because Villa have looked lifeless this season.
But on Saturday Villa were a positive side. A top effort from the opening whistle, with the likes of Bailey and Luiz–two players who have reportedly been disgruntled–providing passion in droves.
Man City generated an expected goals (xG) total of 2.03, but all considered it was a strong defensive performance from the hosts. City were always going to get their chances, but Haaland and Phil Foden were kept at bay, and Martinez made a handful of superb saves.
Overall it was a major step forward. City were expected to blitz Villa but settled for a draw; that’s an important result for Gerrard’s side.
Now if Villa can take six points from the next two…
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