Second-half goals from Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan earned Manchester City a hard-fought 2-0 win over Aston Villa at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday. The result saw Pep Guardiola’s men overtake Leicester City at the top of the current Premier League standings.
The hosts, who enjoyed the majority of the possession in the first half, struggled to break down an extremely well-organized Villa outfit that formed an extremely effective defensive shield in front of their goal.
After a similarly bright start to the second half, City finally broke the deadlock in the 79th minute. Rodri dispossessed Tyrone Mings on the edge of the Villa penalty area before setting up Silva, who fired a clinical left-footed effort past the impressive Emiliano Martinez.
Gundogan then sewed up the points from the penalty spot after Matty Cash was adjudged to have handled in the box. The German calmly sent his penalty down the middle of the goal.
On that note, here are the five major talking points from Manchester City’s eventful 2-0 home win over Aston Villa.
#1 Aston Villa were finally able to field their first team again
No team in the English top-flight has been as severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Dean Smith’s side have fallen behind their contemporaries after an outbreak at their training camp left them unable to take to the field for almost three weeks.
As a result, this game against City was just Villa’s third game this month. The New Year’s Day encounter against the other Manchester club and the FA Cup clash against Liverpool - where they fielded their academy products - being their other two games of 2021.
While the senior squad have had the advantage of an unexpected break in the middle of a quite hectic season, they have built up a bit of a backlog of fixtures going into the second half of the season.
However, a couple of extra midweek fixtures to get back on level terms is not likely to be as much of a problem this season, with the schedule more congested than it has ever been.
The Villa players might even benefit from the extra rest in January while their peers plow on - a factor that might give them a slight advantage going forward.
#2 Manchester City’s run of form sends an ominous message for the rest of the league
The victory against Aston Villa makes it nine wins in a row for Pep Guardiola’s side. Manchester City last dropped points in the league all the way back in mid-December and tasted defeat in late November.
What makes their run of form even more impressive are the amount of clean sheets that they have racked up along the way. The new-look Manchester City defense has looked virtually unbreachable in recent months.
A shaky start to the season gave rise to conversations that Manchester City might not be in the title race this season. It even led to rumors of Guardiola’s impending exit. However, the former champions have made a remarkable return to form.
As such, given Manchester City’s current form, it would take a Herculean effort for opponents to stop them, which is why they have suddenly risen to the status of title favorites.