Lambert’s Lions began the game against the Premier League champions fearlessly, passing quite accurately and fighting hard to win back possession. After four minutes, Hart made the bizarre choice to go chasing the ball and, well away from his goal, he reached the ball to snuff out any danger. Benteke looked threatening in the middle and Agbonlahor’s attempt to feed the Belgian from the left flank was cleared by Nastasic. A dangerous-looking cross from Bennett on the left was headed for Weimann but cleared for a corner and Benteke headed over, wasting the set piece.
As City began to waken up, the Villans flooded back in numbers to slow the action.
The boys in claret and blue slowed down too but still enjoyed the lion’s share of possession but to no avail: City dropped further back and added manpower to their defensive efforts.
After being hit by N’Zogbia’s boot, Zabaletta was treated on the touchline for a head injury. A Villa corner then allowed Benteke a powerful header that Tevez cleared off the line before Guzan palmed a thunderous shot from Rodwell at the other end of the pitch.
As an injured Rodwell was replaced by Dzeko, the tempo fell further until Milner’s effort penetrated a weak Villa wall only to be smothered by Guzan. The champions then came out of training mode, working hard to get balls in to Tevez but Guzan was equal to their efforts. Patient, purposeful passing allowed Zabaleta to get on the end of the ball in the box and his shot seemed certain to beat Guzan but the American got a hand to it and watched the ball whack off the post and spring out of the danger zone.
City soon had another corner, which Milner stepped up to take. They played the ball short and back to the former Villan Milner, who had all the time in the world, but blasted the ball over.
As Villa’s vulnerabilities began to be exposed, Guzan was kept busy, punching away an effort from the edge of the box before clear a shot from Dzeko.
Benteke and Kolo Toure treated the crowd to a tussle worthy of WWE before referee Mike Dean awarded the home side a free kick.
In injury time, Clark, once again the skipper in Vlaar’s absence, received a throw-in in Villa’s half but stalled and was closed down by Dzeko, whose challenge didn’t appear to be entirely legal. In awkward positions, the officials assumed Clark had slipped and Dzeko was allowed to advance and pass to an unmarked Tevez, who rounded Guzan and slotted the ball in.
Knowing that the boys in claret and blue have come from behind to secure only two points all season, fans were crestfallen but the Lions offered some hope at the start of the second half with a bright start. N’Zogbia worked hard to get the ball into Benteke in the box, although his efforts were in vain. After a City corner, Benteke won a free kick thirty-five yards out and the ball was chipped in for Clark, who headed wide.
As Bennett dawdled and was dispossessed, the home fans grew frustrated. Villa seemed to lack a cutting edge while Tevez seemed desperate for a second, shooting at every available opportunity. Agbonlahor received a great ball from Weimann but his shot hit Kolo Toure to earn Villa another corner. With a below-par Benteke threatening, Dzeko hit the ball behind for another Villa corner, which is scrambled clear.
Lowton livened things up with an audacious shot from thirty yards out that wasn’t far wide but, despite the increased possession, as is too often the case, Villa seemed unable to find the net while the visitors operated in the lower gears.
Yaya Toure then hit the woodwork and Dzeko tapped the ball in but he was deemed to be offside.
Benteke found himself booked and Nasri replaced Tevez for the visitors. Villa’s play began to show more promise but Weimann wasted a decent chance, shooting far too high. He was soon replaced by Dawkins and El Ahmadi came on in place of Westwood.
With three minutes remaining, Benteke went to ground in the box having been clattered by Nastasic. His appeal for a penalty was as half-hearted as his performance throughout the game and Mike Dean dismissed what was a genuine claim.
Silva left the pitch and Barry made his way on to booing as the home team pushed for an equaliser with four minutes added on. A corner was wasted and then, to put the icing on the cake, Delph, the official ‘Man of the Match’, picked up a totally unnecessary yellow in the final minute to rule himself out of the next two vital games against Reading and QPR.