Saturday analysis: Man City and Liverpool both dig deep to avoid more heartache
Aston Villa 0-2 Manchester City
For the fourth week running, Villa faced one of last season's top four, and for the third week running, they were beaten to nil without having played terribly.
That's not to say there weren't severely tested by Manchester City in this Saturday tea time clash, because the champions had their hosts penned in for much of the match. Manuel Pellegrini's site may not have managed a shot on target in the first half, but they certainly flexed their muscles and kept Villa exactly where they wanted them. The second half was a different story, with shots raining in on Brad Guzan's goal - 14 of them in all, 7 on target. It was a truly heroic defensive 'shift' from Villa. Sadly for them, in the 82nd minute, Yaya Toure finally broke the deadlock.
It was a goal that will have boosted City more than it bruised Villa. Two points dropped here could have left the men from the Etihad seven points adrift of Chelsea, if the Blues won their game in hand against Arsenal on Sunday. Certainly not insurmountable with 31 matches to play, but a huge psychological blow, particularly given Chelsea's relentlessness when they build up a head of steam - they're more likely to panic when it's close than get complacent when it's not.
It was certainly the kind of result you can imagine looking back on as significant should City be crowned champions again in May.
Having endured much cake-related criticism this season, Yaya Toure will have been more than a little chuffed to score what could prove to be a crucial goal for the champions.
Yet, although the Ivorian was a constant presence in this match, he was a largely unspectacular one. He kept things ticking over in midfield - making 128 passes - but didn't make the kind of lung-busting runs forward we were used to seeing last season... although that may have been because the ball was generally already in or around Villa's box.
Villa were no doubt starting to tire by the time Toure's goal came - it was exactly the kind of effort they would've hurtled out to block in the first half, and the same could possibly be said of Sergio Aguero's second, too.
Toure may have scored the decisive goal, but there can be little question the star of the show was the one and only David Silva. This was a showing that did little to quell the talk that City's No.21 is the best player the Premier League has to offer right now. He was simply magical.
The Spaniard was at his mercurial best, making 39 successful passes in the attacking third - more than any other player on the pitch - and never giving the Villa defence a moment's rest. He created 3 chances for team-mates, but sadly didn't get the assist his elegant performance deserved.
Word too for the ever-dependable James Milner, who is currently enjoying something of a purple patch. The England man was - as ever - always showing for the ball, providing under-pressure team-mates with an option. He also created a game-high 8 chances for team-mates, one of which was rattled into the net by Sergio Aguero.
Players like Silva and Aguero need willing runners like Milner to make those tidy little one-twos possible. He's like the tiki-taka-tape holding it all together. Maybe...
- Yaya Toure has scored in his last three Premier League games against Aston Villa.
- In fact, Yaya Toure's last goal before today was against Aston Villa in May 2014, ending a run of six Premier League games without scoring.
- Sergio Aguero has netted three goals in three Premier League games against the Villans.
- Aguero has found the net 11 times in his last 13 away games, and in each of his last five on the road.
- It took 47 minutes for either side to register a shot on target in this match.
- Villa had one shot on target in the whole match. They have managed just 10 shots on target in the league this season, 11 fewer than anyone else.
- Manchester City have lost just one of their last 17 Premier League away games (W12 D4 L1).
- Manuel Pellegrini's side have scored at least twice in their last seven Premier League away games.
- Villa have failed to score in five of the last six Premier League games against City.