City: Hart, Zabaleta (c), K Toure, Nastasic, Clichy, Garcia, Milner, Rodwell (Dzeko 25), Silva (Barry 90), Y Toure, Tevez (Nasri 75)
Unused: Pantilimon, Lescott, Kolarov, Sinclair
Goals: Tevez (45+1)
Referee: Mike Dean
Man of the Match: Pablo Zabaleta
It was a nervy start from the visitors, who had several high balls into the box to deal with and City just about did what they needed to. Hart came to punch a sliced Garcia clearance, but skewed the ball upwards, before Kolo Toure volleyed away after Benteke couldn’t get to a cross first. Weimann was then inches from connecting to a low ball into the box, but he couldn’t and Hart was happy to see it wide.
With 20 minutes played, it had been all Villa and City had Tevez to thank that the scores were still level. Benteke got up above the defence to head at goal from a corner and it was destined for the bottom corner until the striker volleyed it off the line. At the other end, Rodwell had the visitors’ first shot on target, forcing Guzan to tip over at the near post. The bad news for City was that, in shooting, the midfielder suffered a recurrence of his hamstring injury.
A free kick on the edge of the box for City went straight through the Villa wall from Milner, but Guzan got across to hold the midfielder’s shot. It was still an isolated effort for the away side, who had struggled to settle into the game. Clichy had nodded down for Dzeko, but he couldn’t find Tevez, before Tevez tried to slot Yaya Toure through, but the pass was intercepted.
From City’s first good move of the game, the visitors were a lick of paint from taking the lead. Silva and Yaya Toure combined to slot Zabaleta through into the box and the Argentine’s curled shot towards the far corner was brilliantly touched onto the inside of the post by Guzan. The Villa keeper was in action again a moment later to deny Tevez from the edge of the box. City had woken up.
As the board went up for stoppage time, Clark was put under pressure by Dzeko, who stole the ball and found himself through on goal. As the defence came back to cover, he squared for Tevez to take it around Guzan and roll it into the corner, past the covering defender on the line. City were in front in first half stoppage time.
It was end-to-end for the first few minutes of the second half, as Villa looked to slide Weimann through in the box, but Benteke’s ball wasn’t good enough. Guzan was then worried by a deflected Dzeko effort, after Silva had played Tevez through and Zabaleta had had his shot blocked. From the resulting corner, Nastasic tried an ambitious overhead kick and it ended up in the fans behind the goal.
On 55 minutes, Dzeko stole the ball from the Villa back line for the second time in the match and, once again, he played Tevez in. The Argentine carried the ball across the box and shot for the near post – Guzan was beaten, but there was a covering defender behind him to clear the danger. Tevez should have squared to Silva, who was in acres of space.
Five minutes later, some good defending from Kolo Toure kept the visitors’ lead intact. He tracked the run of Agbonlahor and got the final touch on the striker’s header from inside the six-yard box to deflect it over the bar. Dzeko defended the corner and Hart came to clear up the remaining danger. At the other end, a Milner free kick bounced to Yaya Toure and he was brought down on the edge of the box: Tevez’s shot hit the wall.
Lowton nearly responded for Villa with 25 minutes to play as he smashed a shot from very long range. It curled away from Hart’s far post and, despite the goalkeeper appearing worried by the effort, it finished wide of the goal. Shortly after, City had the ball in the net again, but it was ruled out by an offside flag. Yaya Toure hit the inside of the post with a low drive on his left foot and the rebound fell to Dzeko, but he was rightly flagged.
With a couple of minutes to play, Villa cranked up the pressure on the City goal. Benteke could have won a penalty when Nastasic didn’t win the ball, before some good defending from Zabaleta, Kolo and Yaya Toure forced the ball clear. Benteke almost picked out a Villa shirt when he nodded back across goal, but Nastasic got a boot in to clear.
Like the start, it was a nervy finish, but, equally, it was a hard-fought City win.