English Premier League

Manchester City 4 – 1 Aston Villa

Phil Foden struck a stunning hat-trick as Manchester City continued to apply pressure to Premier League title rivals Arsenal and Liverpool with a commanding win over Aston Villa at Etihad Stadium.

Manager Pep Guardiola left key men Erling Haaland and Kevin de Bruyne on the bench after Sunday’s drab draw with Arsenal, but the reigning champions still had too much for injury-hit Villa, who also lost goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez to illness just before kick-off.

In their absence, Foden produced a masterclass to take his tally to 21 goals this season. But it was Rodri who struck first for City after 11 minutes when he swept home Jeremy Doku’s cross at the near post.

Villa were dangerous on the break and drew level nine minutes later when Jhon Duran beat Stefan Ortega with a low finish after a neat exchange with Morgan Rogers.

It was then that Foden took charge, restoring City’s lead with a low 20-yard free-kick on the stroke of half-time, although Villa’s Nicolo Zaniolo played his part by turning his back in the wall.

Foden extended City’s lead after 62 minutes when he fired low past Villa’s deputy keeper Robin Olsen after good work by Rodri, then claimed his treble in style seven minutes later with a fine drive into the top corner from the edge of the area.

And City almost had a fifth in second-half stoppage time when Sergio Gomez side-footed Josko Gvardiol’s cut-back against the outside of the post.

The win leaves City level on points with Liverpool, who play Sheffield United at Anfield on Thursday night, and a point behind Arsenal, who top the table after beating Luton Town.

Brilliant Foden fills the gap

Phil Foden’s individual display hit such heights that Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola never had any cause to question or revise his decision to leave De Bruyne and Haaland to sit out a potentially dangerous clash with Aston Villa.

Indeed, it ended up working out perfectly as City showed much of their own fluency, while De Bruyne and Haaland were able to relax and rest tired legs after recent exertions in readiness for Saturday’s lunchtime visit to Crystal Palace.

City were subdued against Arsenal here on Sunday, but Villa were never able to exert similar control, mainly because Foden was simply too hot for them to handle.

This was a much more convincing City display, more cohesive, and this was mainly thanks to Foden and his deadly mixture of creation and cutting edge that did so much to fashion this victory.

Foden’s hat-trick showed all facets of his game, from the clever free-kick to put City back in front, then the composure to make it 3-1, before the final flourish of a powerful strike past a motionless Olsen into the top corner.

He now has 21 goals this season and if anyone needed further evidence that Foden is the complete package, this performance provided it.

Villa’s night of disappointment

Aston Villa and manager Unai Emery may have felt this was not going to be their night when talisman and World Cup-winning goalkeeper Martinez was forced to withdraw from the game through illness shortly before kick-off, having been named in the starting line-up.

This is not to denigrate his replacement Olsen, who had a faultless night, but it is simply a sign that the fates were against Villa, who had already lost main striker Ollie Watkins to injury alongside other key absentees.

Villa did give City some anxious moments, especially when Duran scored a fine equaliser and when Douglas Luiz and Clement Lenglet forced fine saves from City keeper Ortega in swift succession with the score 2-1, but City were nearly always in control and the destiny of the points was sealed once Foden gave Guardiola’s side a two-goal advantage.

Emery’s side remain in fourth place – two points ahead of Tottenham who drew at West Ham United on Tuesday – so no major damage was done, but this was a tired performance from a depleted side.


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