ASTON VILLA 1-1 MAN CITY: Steven Gerrard has eased pressure on his position as Aston Villa manager after his team earned a hard-fought draw to rule out Erling Haaland’s 10 goal of the season
The 22-year-old striker continued his remarkable start to life in the Premier League with another strike in the midlands, as Villa boss Stephen Gerrard couldn’t seem to ease the increasing preasure on his position. But his side responded in emphatic fashion, as Leon Bailey equalised in the 74th minute with a ferocious finish.
City took shortly the lead after half-time, stepping up a gear by suffocating the opposition defence once again. Haaland, who scored a hat-trick only three days ago to reach nine goals, profited from a typically inch-perfect Kevin De Bruyne cross. That seemed like all Pep Guardiola and co needed to do, but a belter from Bailey levelled the scores late on and offered Gerrard some salvation.
Here are six talking points from Villa Park.
1. Walker’s early blushes
After falling behind in their previous two Premier League matches, Manchester City made a lightning-fast start to Wednesday’s 6-0 rout against Nottingham Forest. Erling Haaland, of course, was the man to open the floodgates but this tike Kyle Waker had the opportunity to give Pep Guardiola and co an early advantage.
But unlike his goal-loving teammate, Walker squandered a chance after just five minutes of action at Villa Park. City worked it well down the right flank and Ilkay Gundogan played in the England right-back for a clear sight of goal. Walker had time and space, but instead of passing it to the waiting Haaland for what surely would’ve been his 10th strike of the campaign there and then, the 32-year-old defender missed the target all together and ran back towards his own half with egg on his face.
2. Villa’s injury woes worsen
If you asked Steven Gerrard why exactly Aston Villa’s start to the season has been so disappointing, he’d likely point to the amount of defensive injuries his side have endured. With £26million signing Diego Carlos and deadline-day addition Leander Dendoncker still ruled out for this one, losing Matty Cash after just 27 minutes wasn’t what he’d hoped for.
The Poland international – who started every single Premier League game last term after making 28 top-flight appearances in his first campaign with the club – was withdrawn in place of Ashley Young before the half-hour mark after tweaking his hamstring during a challenge in which he was booked, literally adding insult to inuring.
3. Haaland and Mings thrash it out
In a divison filled with diminutive footballers, it’s rather refreshing to see two brutes going at it in the penalty box. When Erling Haaland and Tyrone Mings were both confirmed to be starting, traditionalists would’ve hoped that a proper battle was in store.
And while they didn’t deliver the kind of colossal clash football fans often like to see, the pair did lock horns towards the end of the first half. Firstly, Haaland smashed into Mings as the ball rolled out of play before the Aston Villa defender returned the courtesy, throwing the City striker to the ground in the next phase. It was all deemed fair, though, and the duo saw the funny side afterwards.
4. Haaland hits double figures
Come on, admit it. You were one of those foolish enough to think Erling Haaland wouldn’t have scored 10 Premier League goals in his first six games. Joking aside, the 22-year-old Norwegian marksman is on a mission to break records in his first season as a Manchester City player, and tear apart defences.
With help from a sublime Kevin De Bruyne cross and in midair, Haaland volleyed home in the 50th minute to give the Citizens a deserved lead and take his tally into double figures just three days in September. His finish wasn’t anything special, but it was clinical and what we should expect for the rest of his time in English football. We’re already running out of superlatives for him.
5. Bailey belter
Haaland goal, City win? The script seemed written until Aston Villa’s Leon Bailey had his say. The 25-year-old forward slammed home an equaliser in the 74th minute and gave Steven Gerrard’s side a heap of much-needed hope. Teammate Jacob Ramsey instigated the attack, carrying the ball down the left and pulling it back towards Bailey, who produced an emphatic strike to make it 1-1.
The Holte End went wild and City, who were cruising to victory as the closing stages dawned, were left stunned. The equaliser – which visiting goalkeeping Ederson had no chance of saving – dramatically changed the rhythm of the game, with Villa’s tails up and the Citizens coming under more pressure than they’d faced all evening.
6. Gerrard gets a break
Having began his tenure at Villa Park superbly, Steven Gerrard’s time in Birmingham has turned sour of late. The Liverpool legend doesn’t appear to know his best team, has no clear tactical plan and is facing questions over his future. However, the well-earned draw with City showed that his players are still fighting for him and hope of turning things around is indeed there.
Rodri and Riyah Mahrez came close to a winner for Guardiola’s men, but the champions will have to wait until they welcome Tottenham Hotspur next Saturday to get back to winning ways in the Premier League. Before that, though, is their Champions League group-stage opener, as they travel to face Sevilla on Tuesday.