With Manchester City having netted nine times in their last two games prior to this afternoon, it looked as if the blue moon was rising. Indeed, a win today would have seen City top the table.
Seeing the Lions line up without Benteke and Agbonlahor did little to boost the 33,000 Villa fans’ confidence. Their absence led to Lambert playing a 3-1-4-2 formation, with Weimann and Kozak up front.
After three minutes, the visiting side had the first chance as Kolarov raced down the left and crossed the ball in to Milner, who whacked the ball well off target.
As Luna limped, Bacuna drilled in a low ball but he was wide of the right post.
Nasri allowed Dzeko to slip through in the 8th minute but Guzan was on hand, quite literally, to make the save.
The Villa Park faithful made themselves heard as Villa won their first corner of the game. Unfortunately, it amounted to nothing and City threatened on the break as Nasri weaved his way past three defenders and shot low. His shot seemed bound for the back of the net but the slight deflection off Delph was enough to see it wind its way wide.
Villa did not look comfortable with the new formation and allowed City a lot of possession, with El Ahmadi and Sylla both committing fouls as they tried to contain their opponents.
With 24 minutes played, Nastasic fouled Kozak, which gave Villa free kick from thirty yards out. El Ahmadi shot over the wall – and over the bar.
On the half hour mark, Delph turned defender and saw off the danger caused by Dzeko and Negredo.
The pressure on the Villans eased a little and good teamwork presented Bacuna with a scoring opportunity but his shot flew over Hart’s head.
Kolarov then whipped the ball in from the left and Clark made a vital clearance, giving fans a scare as he had little room for error and could easily have put the ball in his own net.
Right at the end of a fairly even first half, City struck: the boys in claret and blue failed to deal with Nasri’s corner and Toure was able to squeeze in a shot and wrong-foot Guzan.
Manchester City started the second half as they had ended the first. Within two minutes, Kolarov volleyed from the edge of the box. Thankfully, the ball went wide and the Villans breathed again.
Villa, however, soon levelled against the run of play. Bacuna played the ball in for El Ahmadi, who slotted it past Hart.
Fans were still celebrating the equaliser when City regained the lead through Dzeko, who left the ground to receive Nasri’s corner and headed home at the near post.
Five minutes later, Negredo had the chance to cement City’s lead but Guzan did well to stop the shot and smother it.
Villa soldiered on and the players were rewarded with a free-kick in a good position. Bacuna struck the ball sweetly and it made its way into the top left-hand corner, much to the delight of the fans, who took to their feet and sang ‘Holte Enders in the Sky’ loudly and proudly as Weimann encouraged all those seated there to sing up.
The singing seemed to do the trick: three magical minutes after equalising, Villa had the lead. Guzan walloped the ball up the pitch to Kozak, who was unable to make contact with it, and Weimann darted towards it and did well to get a touch that allowed it to roll – very slowly – past Hart.
Bowery soon replaced Weimann, whose spirited performance earned him a warm round of applause.
City seemed to be struggling with the punishing pace dictated by Villa. Jovetic’s initial shot was blocked by Vlaar and Guzan had no trouble saving his second.
With the ninety minute mark approaching, Kozak went to ground after Nastasic caught him with his arm. A lively Lambert wasn’t the only man at Villa Park looking at his watch but the third official indicated that there would be five minutes of injury time as Kozak got a rub of the magic sponge – before returning to action and being floored by Toure.
After a last minute City corner left Villans sweating, Jones finally blew his whistle and sweat gave way to sweet relief.
It was no exaggeration on the part of Lambert to label today’s victory as “a big win” and we can now look forward to another “battling” performance against Hull City at the KC Stadium next weekend to move us further up the table.