Man City held as Villa start Garde era with bat­tling draw

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

BIRM­ING­HAM: Manch­ester City’s short­age of recog­nised strik­ers was glar­ingly ex­posed in a goal­less draw away to bot­tom club As­ton Villa yes­ter­day that saw them squan­der the chance to con­sol­i­date their po­si­tion at the top of the Pre­mier League.

Manuel Pel­le­grini lost the ser­vices of Wil­fried Bony to a ham­string in­jury and then watched in frus­tra­tion as City failed to make their sec­ond-half dom­i­na­tion count in a match where Villa ended a dis­mal run of seven suc­ces­sive de­feats.

City had to op­er­ate with­out a recog­nised front­man for more than an hour, al­though Ra­heem Ster­ling, Kevin de Bruyne and Fer­nando all wasted gilt-edged chances to wrap up all three points in the clos­ing stages.

It meant that French­man Remi Garde claimed a valu­able point in his first game as Villa man­ager to stop the rot which led to his ap­point­ment as the suc­ces­sor to Tim Sher­wood, al­though a draw still left the Birm­ing­ham club at the foot of the ta­ble.

City were left ru­ing the missed chances, and the con­tin­ued ab­sence of Ser­gio Aguero, as they had to set­tle for a share of the spoils in a game they were ex­pected to win com­fort­ably.

The re­turn of former City de­fender Micah Richards was one of six changes made by Garde to Villa’s start­ing side from the team beaten at Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur six days ear­lier.

As ex­pected from a team un­der new man­age­ment, Villa be­gan the con­test with great vigour and pur­pose, but the first real threat came when City’s Alek­san­dar Ko­larov was re­leased by Ster­ling on the over­lap and his cross flashed across the face of goal.

Nev­er­the­less, there was en­cour­age­ment for the home fans at Villa Park in the way their side started the game with Jor­dan Amavi get­ting for­ward at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity, but Idrissa Gu­eye failed to trou­ble Joe Hart with a long-range shot af­ter a burst from the cen­tre of mid­field.

Guzan saves

City went close to break­ing the dead­lock on two oc­ca­sions in quick suc­ces­sion as Ko­larov saw his low shot pushed onto the post by Brad Guzan be­fore Fer­nando lashed a close range ef­fort over the bar from the re­sult­ing cor­ner.

But just as Pel­le­grini’s side seemed to be build­ing up a head of steam, they suf­fered the set­back of los­ing Bony to in­jury as he pulled up clutch­ing his ham­string. Fol­low­ing their reshuf­fle, City had a chance to catch Villa on the break, but al­though Yaya Toure’s in­stinc­tive pass sent Ster­ling burst­ing through the mid­dle, the England winger stum­bled in­side the box at the cru­cial mo­ment and sub­se­quent protests he had been fouled by the back­track­ing Ciaran Clark were ig­nored by the referee.

There was a let-off for Villa early in the sec­ond half when Guzan fum­bled the greasy ball when Ko­larov tried his luck from a free kick, but for­tu­nately for the home side, they were able to scram­ble the ball away be­fore Ster­ling could cap­i­talise on it.

Guzan then pulled off an as­ton­ish­ing point-blank save to pre­vent what seemed an in­evitable City opener when Ster­ling rose to meet Je­sus Navas’s cross with a firm header, though the United States in­ter­na­tional didn’t know much about his block.

City were guilty of squan­der­ing an­other golden op­por­tu­nity when de Bruyne was picked out by Navas’s low ball to edge of the six yard box, but with the goal gap­ing in front he some­how man­aged to mis­cue his ef­fort wide of the tar­get.

The Pre­mier League lead­ers were left curs­ing missed chances again in in­jury time when Fer­nando’s close range header rat­tled the bar and former Villa mid­fielder Fa­bien Delph rolled his shot ag­o­nis­ingly wide of Guzan’s left-hand post.

— AP

BIRM­ING­HAM: Manch­ester City’s Ra­heem Ster­ling, left, is tack­led by As­ton Villa’s Ciaran Clark dur­ing the English Pre­mier League soc­cer match be­tween As­ton Villa and Manch­ester City at the Villa Park, yes­ter­day.

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