Lacklustre Manchester City held at Aston Villa on Garde debut
Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | November 8, 2015
Aston Villa 0-0 Manchester City
- Man City lose striker Bony to hamstring problem midway through first-half
- Sterling penalty claim after going down late from Clark challenge
- Pellegrini’s men see second-half chances go begging
- Villans remain bottom despite draw
Garde gets a point from dugout debut
Aston Villa ended a run of seven straight Premier League defeats by pinching a point off leaders Manchester City in Remi Garde’s first game in charge of the West Midlands outfit.
Visitors City were particularly profligate in the second-half, wasting several chances in what many punters would have had down as an away banker bet.
Indebted to Villans captain Micah Richards, who put in several sensational blocks, the home team defended resolutely under ex-Arsenal holding player and centre half Garde to deservedly take a share of the spoils.
Garde rang six changes after his watching brief for the 3-1 defeat at White Hart Lane, with Villa skipper Richards returning from a ban to face his former club alongside Scott Sinclair.
The three Jordan’s – Amavi, Ayew and Veretout – all signed in the summer started, with fellow French speaker and new arrival Idrissa Gana Gueye, plus Carles Gil in the XI.
Spurs injury casualties Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Westwood missed out completely, while Leandro Bacuna, Jack Grealish, Joleon Lescott and Kieran Richardson dropped to the bench.
Manuel Pellegrini made just one alteration to the Man City side that sunk Sevilla away in the Champions League midweek; Kevin De Bruyne returned in place of Jesus Navas.
Bony brought off in first 45
A drab first-half saw both sides show sporadic threats at best. Joe Hart had nothing to do as Villans forward Ayew cut an isolated figure, toiling up top while being well marshalled by City skipper Vincent Kompany and centre back partner Nicolas Otamendi.
Brad Guzan, in the home goal, tipped round the post from Aleksandar Kolarov, with the left-sided outlet overlapping after Raheem Sterling’s infield incursion. Speaking of the England attacker, he was forced to change roles when Wilfired Bony pulled up with a hamstring problem.
Pellegrini put Navas on, and that meant De Bruyne swapping flanks, so Man City now possessed a menace in-behind in Sterling. He has to work on shooting with his weaker left foot, showing reticence to pull the trigger and instead looked for penalty when going down late under contact from Ciaran Clark.
Villa’s openings were limited to a wild Gana Gueye effort off-balance and Gil lashing a free-kick he won well over. There was a touch of a European hangover about City before half-time.
Wasteful Man City
That continued after the break with Guzan first spilling a Kolarov free-kick and the home defence hacking clear, before the Villans goalie redeemed himself with a superb reaction stop from Sterling.
Popping up between the centre backs to nod Navas’ cross on target, Guzan used his head to deny Sterling what looked a sure-fire opener. Man City’s counter-attacking potential became huge when Bony limped off, and Villa captain Richards had to make a last-ditch block to stop a break down the right.
De Bruyne managed to miscue at point-blank range when another Navas centre found its way to the Belgian, whose shot struck his other leg and squirted behind. Garde’s introduction of Charles N’Zogbia, meanwhile, almost paid off, as he wriggled away from his marker to tee up Sinclair only for Bacary Sagna to intercept.
Hart finally had something to do when Villans sub Bacuna broke clear, with the England number one coming smartly off his line to snuff out the counter danger. Outright hostility welcomed Fabian Delph’s late introduction with his former fans among the home crowd pictured waving toy snakes.
Delph from Villan to villain
While ex-Villa captain Delph reaped what he had sown by making a surprise U-turn over leaving for Man City this summer, it was an outstanding rearguard action from Garde’s charges, led by skipper successor Richards that preserved a point.
Final Villans sub Rudy Gestede had a spat with Hart over returning possession, leading to a controversial corner that the Benin target man nearly nodded in. Fernando’s header hit the bar for Man City in stoppage time, while another effort fired in fell wide.
Villa somehow survived to take a share of the spoils. While a point doesn’t change their league position, it is the manner of the reaction Garde has garnered which bodes well and they’ve been cut by Coral from 7/4 to 6/4 to stay up.
Should Arsenal win their north London derby against Tottenham, Man City will lose their place on top of the Premier League. Only time will tell how costly two dropped points at the basement club will be in Pellegrini’s bid to regain the title.