Villa Hit City For Four
Sunday 14 August
Things couldn't have started much worse for the Blues, as the Boj pulled up sharply in the warm up, and was unable to participate in the match, (MH later confirmed that he had a suspected torn achilles, and was unlikely to play competitively again this year). As a result, his place went to a willing and eager Ched Evans.
Villa did a lot of pressing throughout the first half, and squandered chances from want-away Barry and the ever-menacing John Carew. City, however, were always on the periphery of things, and Elano and Petrov inter-linked well when the opportunities arose.
HT 0-0. Fernandes getting through a lot of work in the midfield, and the Richards Ben-Haim partnership starting off solidly. City still unable to create clear-cut chances - a problem carried over from last season.
Things couldn't have started worse for City, as they failed to leave the HT dressing room before Carew headed in at the far post. To their credit City rallied and forced Villa onto the back foot. Johnson went down under an innocuous challenge, and the ref kindly took pit on the Blues, awarding a penalty. Elano, quiet up to that point, stepped up with ultra-confidence and beat Friedel with ease. Game on!
From that point forward, instead of pressing home the momentum, City self -destructed. Gabrield Agbonlahor, whose pace was a thorn in City's side all afternoon, tore us apart, completing an all-too-comfortable hat trick, with precious little resilience from City's back four.
The last word did go to City, as Corluka netted his first goal for the Blues from Petrov's in-swinging free kick in the dying moments, but it was too little too late.
FT 2-4 Hughes, I'm sure will take comfort in the fact that we competed for the best part of 80 minutes, but equally so, he has to be alarmed at the 10 minute spell where we simply caved in. The season is long, and if City can get striking re-enforcements (which Hughes emphasised after the match), I'm sure we'll turn this result around into a positive. Congratulations to Villa, I'm sure they'll be knocking on Europe's door come May.
Ben Haim 7