Manchester City moved a step closer to the Premier League title with a 2-1 win over ten-man Aston Villa on Wednesday evening. However, a red card for John Stones – the first of two sendings off on the night – will rule the centre-back out of City’s next three matches, including Sunday’s League Cup final against Tottenham.
A dramatic first-half had barely begun when Stones failed to cut out a ball down the left, allowing Ollie Watkins to burst into the box and square a cross for John McGinn to tuck home with 20 seconds on the clock.
However, scoring so early was a case of poking the bear, and City took a stranglehold of the game for much of the remainder of the first half, equalising with a trademark team goal finished by Phil Foden on 22 minutes. A bullet of a header from Rodri put City 2-1 up five minutes before half-time, but a high and late challenge from Stones earned the centre-back a red card shortly before the break and threatened to give Villa a route back into the game.
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Dean Smith made an attacking change at the interval as he looked to take make the most of the extra man. But that advantage lasted just 12 minutes into the second half, with Matty Cash picking up a pair of bookings just three minutes apart to follow Stones down the tunnel.
The ten men of Villa struggled to create much of note for the remainder of the match, as City controlled the game well, creating a number of chances against a tiring home defence.
Victory sees City close in on the title, with Guardiola’s side now 11 points clear of Manchester United at the top of the table. But attention will now turn to Sunday’s trip to Wembley, where City will now face Spurs without the services of the suspended Stones.

Rodrigo of Manchester City celebrates after scoring their side's second goal with team mate Bernardo Silva during the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Manchester City at Villa Park on April 21, 2021 in Birmingham, England

Image credit: Getty Images

Talking Point – How much will Stones suspension hurt City?

John Stones has been outstanding this season, but he showed signs of his shaky worst in this game, failing to deal with a long ball inside the opening minute to allow Villa the chance to open the scoring, and then looking a bit rash with the challenge that saw him sent off. It’s never a good thing to disrupt your starting centre-back partnership, but Aymeric Laporte looked really classy when he came on in the second half and isn’t much of a step down (if it all). Guardiola will still fancy a Dias-Laporte partnership to cope with Spurs on Sunday at Wembley, particularly if Harry Kane is missing or half-fit with his ankle injury.

Man of the Match – Phil Foden (Man City)

Foden was superb again for City, finishing off a stunning team move for the opening goal and then threatening throughout as he drifted off that left flank. When City went down to ten men it was Foden who did as much as anyone on the field to take the sting out of the game and exploit the space left behind after Cash’s red.

Player Ratings

Aston Villa: Martinez 7, Cash 5, Konsa 6, Mings 6, Targett 6, Nakamba 5, Douglas Luiz 5, Ramsey 6, McGinn 7, Traore 5, Watkins 6. Subs: Davis 6, Barkley 6, El Ghazi 6
Man City: Ederson 6, Walker 7, Dias 7, Stones 4, Zinchenko 5, Gündogan 7, Rodrigo 7, Bernardo 7, Mahrez 8, Foden 8, Jesus 5. Subs: Laporte 6, Fernandinho 6

Key Moments

1’ GOAL! – McGinn scores after just 20 seconds,1-0 to Villa! What a remarkable start at Villa Park. City didn’t deal with a free-kick into the channel, with Stones failing to cut it out and Watkins squaring for the onrushing McGinn to slot home. It’s one of the fastest goals in Premier League history!
22’ GOAL! – City equalise and it’s Phil Foden who’s got it. The move is absolutely classic City, cutting Villa open with crisp and incisive passing, with Foden arriving in the box to dispatch the cut-back. If Guardiola could design a goal you sense it would look a lot like that. 1-1.
40’ GOAL! – City have the lead and it’s Rodri! Villa clear a corner, but City work it straight back out wide on the far side for Bernardo to cross, and Rodri rises highest to head home. 2-1.
44’ – Villa break and Stones goes in high and late on Ramsey on the halfway line. It’s a foul for sure, but could be more – VAR are having a look at this. The red card comes out and John Stones is off! City are absolutely furious about that, but the tackle was reckless, there’s certainly a case for the red.
57’ – It’s 10 vs 10 as Cash goes in late on Foden and picks up a second yellow card. He lost possession and looked to rescue the situation, but it’s a clear foul, a clear yellow, and the referee has no other choice.

Stats and Facts

  • The red card for Stones is his first in the Premier League and came from just his sixth foul of the season (in 20 matches).
  • Only Kevin de Bruyne has been involved in more goals for City than Foden this season. The Englishman has 14 goals and nine assists to his name.
  • McGinn has big-game pedigree. Four of his five total goals in the Premier League have come against the breakaway boys – Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham and now Manchester City.
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