Aston Villa Lash Liverpool 7-2

Aston Villa’s English midfielder Jack Grealish (C) scores their seventh goal past Liverpool’s Spanish goalkeeper Adrian during the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Liverpool at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on October 4, 2020. (Photo by Catherine Ivill / POOL / AFP) /

 

Liverpool’s 100 percent start to the Premier League season came to an end in stunning fashion as Ollie Watkins’s first-half hat-trick helped Aston Villa thrash the English champions 7-2 on Sunday.

Deflected efforts from John McGinn, Ross Barkley and Jack Grealish compounded a night to forget for Jurgen Klopp’s men before Grealish completed the scoring.

It is the first time Liverpool have conceded seven goals in a game since 1963.

The Reds were not beaten until their 28th league game in romping to the title last season.

But a fine start to their title defence came undone without injured goalkeeper Alisson Becker and with Thiago Alcantara and Sadio Mane unavailable due to coronavirus infections.

Alisson’s absence made a telling impact after just four minutes to get Villa in front as Adrian’s poor pass was seized upon by Grealish, who squared for the former Watkins to score his first Premier League goal.

Mane was also missed at the other end as Liverpool laid seige to the Villa goal, but were too easily opened up on the counter-attack.

Barkley twice should have opened his Villa account in the first-half as he skewed shots wide from close range either side of Watkins’s second.

Grealish was again the creator with a long ball down the side of the Liverpool defence and the former Brentford striker cut inside before blasting into the top corner.

Mohamed Salah seemed to have got the visitors a foothold back in the match when he slammed home on his trusty left-foot after Mane’s understudy, Diogo Jota, tried to burrow a way into the penalty area.

But Villa quickly restored their two-goal cushion when John McGinn’s effort from the edge of the area deflected in off Virgil van Dijk.

Liverpool’s high line was being caught out even from set plays as six minutes before the break Trezeguet broke the offside trap to cross for Watkins to become the first player in a decade to score a hat-trick against Liverpool.

Fortune favoured Villa’s desire not to just sit on their lead after the break as Barkley’s long-range effort looped over the helpless Adrian to make it 5-1.

Salah remained razor sharp in front of goal to move within one away from 100 for Liverpool with a brilliant finish from Roberto Firmino’s pass.

Having seen enough from Joe Gomez, Klopp moved midfielder Firmino into his back four early in the second-half, but it did nothing to stem the flow of Villa attacks cutting through his defence.

Grealish completed a hat-trick of deflected goals when his shot hit Fabinho to wrong-foot Adrian again.

Watkins missed two huge chances to score his fourth as Adrian saved a one-on-one before he hit the crossbar.

Grealish, though, was more clinical when he raced through to round off a remarkable victory.

Villa stayed up by a single point on the final day of last season, but they have now won their opening three games of the new league campaign to move up to second.

AFP

Aston Villa Sign Chelsea’s Barkley On Loan

Ross Barkley joins Villa on a season-long loan. Photo: [email protected] Villa

 

Aston Villa have announced the signing of midfielder Ross Barkley on a season-long loan from Chelsea.

The 26-year-old had made three appearances for Frank Lampard’s side this season, scoring once.

Villa manager Dean Smith said: “Capturing a player of Ross’s quality is a real coup for our club and I am certain he will thrive here and improve our team.”

The England international has been at Stamford Bridge since joining from Everton in January 2018.

https://twitter.com/AVFCOfficial/status/1311249680089649152?s=20

He will be unavailable for Thursday’s League Cup visit of Stoke, having already played in the competition for Chelsea this season.

Smith’s side have won their opening two Premier League games and Barkley could make his debut against Liverpool on Sunday.

AFP

Martinez’s Penalty Heroics Sees Aston Villa Begin League On Winning Note

Aston Villa’s English defender Ezri Konsa (L) jumps to head the ball to score the opening goal during the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Sheffield Utd at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on September 21, 2020. Julian Finney / POOL / AFP

 

Aston Villa kicked off their Premier League campaign with a 1-0 victory over 10-man Sheffield United on Monday as Ezri Konsa bagged the winner after Emiliano Martinez saved a penalty for the hosts.

United were a man down early on after captain John Egan was sent off for a foul on Ollie Watkins.

Villa keeper Martinez saved John Lundstram’s first-half penalty in his first appearance following his £17 million ($21 million) move from Arsenal last week.

 

Aston Villa’s Argentine goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez throws the ball during the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Sheffield Utd at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on September 21, 2020. Tim Goode / POOL / AFP

 

Konsa sealed the points in the second half with a looping header, a well-earned reward for a committed display after he played on despite appearing to injure himself sprinting out for the second half.

It was the perfect start for Dean Smith’s side, who beat Burton Albion in the League Cup second round last week, as they look to avoid a repeat of last season’s relegation battle.

After losing at home to Wolves last weekend, United have now lost their last five league games dating back to last season.

Former Nottingham Forest right-back Matty Cash was given his Villa debut after his close-season transfer and his deep cross provided an early half-chance for John McGinn, who volleyed over from an acute angle.

Watkins, another of Villa’s new boys, played a key role as United were reduced to 10 men in the 12th minute.

Tyrone Mings’ high long ball sent Watkins racing through on goal and Egan responded by tugging him back, with referee Graham Scott showing the defender a red card that was confirmed by VAR.

Wilder introduced on-loan Chelsea defender Ethan Ampadu and moved Chris Basham into midfield and the switch earned United their penalty in the 36th minute.

Basham’s clever run onto Oliver Burke’s pass forced Matt Targett to concede the spot-kick, but Martinez came to his rescue as he dived to his right to keep out Lundstram’s strike.

Villa found it hard to make the numerical advantage count and their frustration was mounting when Watkins missed the target from Cash’s cross.

But Konsa finally broke the deadlock from a 63rd-minute corner when the defender met Mings’ flick-on with a header that floated past Aaron Ramsdale into the far corner.

 

Aston Villa’s Argentine goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez throws the ball during the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Sheffield Utd at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on September 21, 2020. Tim Goode / POOL / AFP

 

Seven of Villa’s last nine league goals have now come from set-pieces.

Jack Grealish was close to putting the result beyond doubt when he curled just wide from the edge of the area.

AFP

Villa Sign Lyon Forward Traore

Lyon’s Burkinabe forward Bertrand Traore (R) kicks the ball during a training session at the Restelo Stadium in Lisbon on August 16, 2020, a day after defeating Manchester City during their UEFA Champions League quarter-final football match. FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

Aston Villa signed Burkina Faso forward Bertrand Traore from Lyon for a reported £17 million ($21 million) on Saturday.

Traore returns to the Premier League after starting his career with Chelsea, where he spent three years with Villa’s current assistant manager John Terry.

The 25-year-old’s signing is another boost to Villa’s attacking options after the arrival of Ollie Watkins from Brentford for a club-record £28 million earlier this month.

“We’re delighted that Bertrand has chosen to come to Villa,”  manager Dean Smith told his club’s website.

“He’s a player with immense talent who will really enhance our attacking options.”

Villa, who escaped relegation on the final day of last season, have also recently signed Arsenal goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez and Nottingham Forest right-back Matty Cash.

Smith’s side kicks off their Premier League campaign at home to Sheffield United on Monday.

AFP

Arsenal Goalkeeper Martinez Joins Aston Villa

Emiliano Martinez
Emiliano Martinez leaves Arsenal after ten years. Photo: [email protected] Villa.

 

 

Aston Villa announced the signing of Arsenal goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez on Wednesday for a reported fee of £20 million ($26 million).

The 28-year-old Argentine, who has signed a four-year deal, helped Arsenal to FA Cup victory last season and Community Shield glory last month but faced playing second fiddle to Bernd Leno this season.

Villa boss Dean Smith said: “We are really pleased with the signing of our new goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez. We know how highly Arsenal rated him and we watched his outstanding performances last season in a trophy-winning top side.

“We moved for Emi when we saw the opportunity, as it is rare to be able to buy a top-class goalkeeper who hasn’t yet reached their peak age and who can therefore be a key player for our club for the long term.”

Martinez ends a 10-year association with the Gunners, following Matty Cash and Ollie Watkins in moving to Villa Park.

He was signed from Independiente in 2010, making 39 first-team appearances and spending time on loan at six clubs.

“Thank you, thank you for all of the years (of support),” Martinez told Arsenal.com. “I thank God for having the opportunity over the past few months to show the Arsenal fanbase what I am made of, and why I went on loan so many times.

“It was always to come back and win them trophies and give them silverware. I did it, I feel prouder than ever.”

AFP

Villa Out Of Relegation Zone After Edging Arsenal

Aston Villa's English defender Ezri Konsa celebrates after the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Arsenal at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on July 21, 2020. Shaun Botterill / POOL / AFP
Aston Villa’s English defender Ezri Konsa celebrates after the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Arsenal at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on July 21, 2020. Shaun Botterill / POOL / AFP

 

Aston Villa climbed out of the Premier League relegation zone as Egypt winger Trezeguet clinched a priceless 1-0 win against Arsenal on Tuesday.

Dean Smith’s side have their survival fate in their own hands after Trezeguet’s first-half strike at Villa Park.

Watford’s 4-0 thrashing against Manchester City earlier on Tuesday had opened the door for Villa to escape the bottom three.

And Villa seized their chance with a first home Premier League win over Arsenal in 18 attempts dating back to 1998.

Villa are now fourth bottom and have moved ahead of third bottom Watford on goal difference, with Smith’s men on -26 compared to the Hornets’ -27.

They head to West Ham for their final game of the season on Sunday, while Watford visit Arsenal and second-bottom Bournemouth, three points from safety, travel to Everton.

There are a multitude of permutations that could decide relegation, but Villa will be safe if they can better Watford’s result on what is certain to be a dramatic finale.

If Villa and Watford both win, goal difference or goals scored will decide who goes down.

Having secured an FA Cup final place by beating Manchester City on Saturday, Gunners boss Mikel Arteta made six changes and Arsenal looked a shadow of the team who impressed at Wembley.

Arsenal cannot finish higher than eighth and must win the FA Cup final against Chelsea to qualify for next season’s Europa League.

They are certain to finish below north London rivals Tottenham for a fourth successive season.

Villa kicked off just minutes after the final whistle at Watford, whose captain Troy Deeney found himself in the awkward position of looking for a favour from an Arsenal team he had mocked for lacking passion in the past.

If Smith was expecting his team to use the motivation from Watford’s defeat to make a fast start, he must have been disappointed by their tepid opening.

Trezeguet steps up

The most notable incident in the early stages was a plane flying over Villa Park with a banner that read “Back Arteta Kroenke Out” in a pointed message to Arsenal’s US-based owner after another troubled season.

Villa were struggling to find any rhythm, but the drinks break offered Smith a chance to fire up his players.

Crucially, Arsenal’s long-standing weakness at set-pieces reared its head again as Villa snatched the lead in the 27th minute.

Aston Villa's Spanish goalkeeper Pepe Reina (R) jumps for the ball during the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Arsenal at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on July 21, 2020. Shaun Botterill / POOL / AFP
Aston Villa’s Spanish goalkeeper Pepe Reina (R) jumps for the ball during the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Arsenal at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on July 21, 2020. Shaun Botterill / POOL / AFP

 

Tyrone Mings glanced Conor Hourihane’s corner across the six-yard box and Trezeguet was left unmarked to blast a fierce strike past Arsenal keeper Emiliano Martinez.

Trezeguet has been Villa’s savour as the stakes have got higher and his vital goal followed his brace in the victory against Crystal Palace nine days earlier.

The 25-year-old’s seventh goal of the season came from Villa’s first shot on target and he had their second as well with a header that Martinez grasped gratefully.

Jack Grealish, strongly linked with a close-season move, was captaining Villa in what could have been his last home game with the club he supported as a boy.

If it was to be his farewell, Grealish almost made it a memorable one with a long-range curler that flashed just wide.

Arteta sent on the revitalised Granit Xhaka at half-time and Arsenal immediately improved.

Cedric Soares’ cross found Bukayo Saka, who shot over from a good position 12 yards out, then Ezri Konsa threw himself into a brave block to repel Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s shot.

Keinan Davis wasted a golden opportunity to seal the points when he raced onto Grealish’s pass, only to drag his shot wide.

With the tension mounting, Villa rode their luck when Eddie Nketiah’s glancing header hit the post and bounced back into Pepe Reina’s hands.

 

 

AFP

Leicester Closer To Securing UCL Spot After Beating Sheffield As Villa Hold Everton

leicester-city
Leicester City’s Northern Irish manager Brendan Rodgers (R) congratulates Leicester City’s English striker Jamie Vardy (C) at the end of the game during the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Sheffield United at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on July 16, 2020. Michael Regan / POOL / AFP

 

 

Leicester moved a step closer to Champions League qualification after a 2-0 win against Sheffield United while Aston Villa’s survival hopes were seriously damaged as Everton snatched a late draw on Thursday.

Brendan Rodgers’ side earned their first win in three games thanks to goals from Ayoze Perez and Demarai Gray at the King Power Stadium.

It was an essential result after Leicester’s 4-1 thrashing by lowly Bournemouth on Sunday.

Leicester remain in fourth place, just one point behind third-placed Chelsea and three ahead of fifth-placed Manchester United, who face Crystal Palace later on Thursday.

The Foxes face a tense run-in as they bid to return to the Champions League for the first time since 2016-17.

Their next match is at Tottenham on Sunday before a potentially decisive home clash with Manchester United on the last day of the season.

Sheffield United’s first defeat in five games was a blow to their hopes of reaching the Europa League at the climax of a fine first season back in the top-flight.

Aged 19 years, 36 days, academy graduate Luke Thomas was the third youngest player to make his first Premier League start for Leicester after Emile Heskey and Stuart Campbell.

The England Under-19 left-back laid on an early chance for Perez when his cross was headed over by the Leicester winger.

 

leicester-city-villa
Sheffield United’s English defender Jack O’Connell (C) jumps to head the ball as Leicester City’s Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel (3rd R) comes out to punch the ball away during the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Sheffield United at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on July 16, 2020. David Davies / POOL / AFP

 

Jamie Vardy forced Dean Henderson to save with his legs and the Blades keeper had to be alert again moments later to deny Perez’s volley from another Thomas cross.

It was third time lucky for Perez as the Spaniard put Leicester ahead in the 29th minute with his first goal since January.

Perez started the attack with a pass wide to Thomas and took the return ball before drilling low past Henderson from just inside the penalty area.

Vardy hit the post from Youri Tielemens’ defence-splitting pass soon after the interval, with Henderson twice tested by Harvey Barnes as Leicester pushed for a second.

John Egan’s header forced a fine save from Leicester’s Kasper Schmeichel, but Gray’s deft finish sealed the points from Vardy’s pass in the 79th minute.

Everton Held At Home

At Goodison Park, Villa were within touching distance of a second successive win after Ezri Konsa put them ahead in the second half.

But Theo Walcott brought Everton level in the 87th minute when his header was ruled to have crossed the line.

It was an agonising blow for Villa, who remain second bottom and sit three points from safety with just two games left.

With West Ham and Watford — the two teams directly above the relegation zone — meeting on Friday, Villa aren’t down yet, but they are in grave danger of an immediate return to the Championship.

 

villa-everton
Aston Villa’s Dutch striker Anwar El Ghazi (C) misses a goal opportunity during the English Premier League football match between Everton and Aston Villa at Goodison Park in Liverpool, north west England on July 16, 2020. PETER POWELL / POOL / AFP

 

No English top-flight fixture has been played more often than Everton against Villa, but it might not be on the schedule next season after the late drama.

Mbwana Samatta headed Villa’s first chance well over from a good position before Jack Grealish wasted two good chances early in the second half.

Villa finally took the lead with their first shot on target in the 72nd minute.

Conor Hourihane’s free-kick curled into the six-yard box and Konsa stuck out a leg to poke in his first Premier League goal.

But with time ticking down, Walcott meet a deep cross with a looping header that crept over the line with an assist from Konsa’s despairing overhead attempt to clear.

Ex-Liverpool Striker Milan Baros Set To Retire At 38

(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 08, 2012 Czech forward Milan Baros controls the ball during the Euro 2012 football championships match Russia vs. Czech Republic at the Municipal stadium in Wroclaw. - Ex-Liverpool striker Milan Baros ends career at 38. (Photo by Daniel MIHAILESCU / AFP)
(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 08, 2012 Czech forward Milan Baros controls the ball during the Euro 2012 football championships match Russia vs. Czech Republic at the Municipal stadium in Wroclaw. – Ex-Liverpool striker Milan Baros ends career at 38. (Photo by Daniel MIHAILESCU / AFP)

 

 

Former Liverpool, Aston Villa and Czech Republic striker Milan Baros said Friday he would call time on his playing career at the end of the season.

“My head would like to go on, but the body has said stop,” the 38-year-old Baros said on Banik Ostrava’s club website.

“I’ve had health issues for a long time and the body doesn’t simply work the way it used to and the way I need,” he added, complaining about his Achilles tendons.

Baros, who also played for Portsmouth, Lyon and Galatasaray, rose to prominence at Euro 2004, a tournament which he finished as the top scorer.

Baros won the Champions League with Liverpool in 2005 and ended his international career after Euro 2012, having scored 41 goals in 93 games for the Czech Republic.

 

 

-AFP

Liverpool’s Title March Delayed By Everton Stalemate, Chelsea Sink Villa

 

Liverpool’s march towards the Premier League title was delayed as the leaders returned to action with a goalless draw against Merseyside rivals Everton, while Chelsea fought back for a 2-1 win at Aston Villa on Sunday.

Jurgen Klopp’s side picked up following the top-flight resumption on Wednesday needing two wins to secure their first English title for 30 years.

But Liverpool looked rusty in their first game in 106 days following the coronavirus lockdown.

Despite their underwhelming display behind closed doors at Goodison Park, Liverpool are now 23 points ahead of second-placed Manchester City.

If City drop points at home to Burnley on Monday, then Liverpool can clinch the title against Crystal Palace at Anfield on Wednesday.

A City victory would delay Liverpool’s coronation until at least their clash with Pep Guardiola’s side at the Etihad Stadium on July 2.

Liverpool have won just two of their last seven games in all competitions.

“It was a real fight. Both teams showed they understood it was a derby,” Klopp said.

“Most of the time we were dominant but they had the biggest chance. We were not smart enough to use the space.

“That is normal when you start to play again. Football looks slightly different (since the coronavirus) but I take that.”

Reds star Mohamed Salah was left on the bench due to fitness concerns, while Andrew Robertson was also sidelined and they were not at their best as a result.

Liverpool improved after the break and Naby Keita fired just wide before Virgil van Dijk’s header was saved by Jordan Pickford.

But it was Everton who came closest to a winner on the break when Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s effort was saved by Alisson Becker and Tom Davies fired the rebound against the post.

Frank Lampard believes Christian Pulisic can be Chelsea’s trump card in the race to qualify for the Champions League after his decisive cameo at Villa Park.

Lampard’s side were rocked when Kortney Hause put Villa ahead against the run of play in the first half.

But Pulisic came off the bench to equalise after the break before Olivier Giroud bagged his fourth club goal of the season two minutes later.

Chelsea’s quick-fire blitz moved the fourth-placed west Londoners five points clear of Manchester United in fifth as they fight to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

Welcome boost

A first away league win of 2020 was the ideal way for Chelsea to return to action in their first match since the Premier League was suspended in March due to the coronavirus.

It was Pulisic’s first appearance since January after an abductor muscle injury and Lampard feels the United States winger is ready to make an impact again.

“He will start games for us, of course, and I think he’s going to be a big player for us, not just in this run-in but going forward,” Lampard said.

“The ability he’s got to arrive in the box, it’s a big thing, I’ve spoken about it with him all season.”

Steve Bruce hopes Joelinton is finally ready to deliver after the Brazilian ended a Premier League goal drought stretching back to August in Newcastle’s 3-0 win over 10-man Sheffield United.

Joelinton’s close-range finish in the 78th minute completed the scoring after goals from Allan Saint-Maximin and Matt Ritchie.

It was a welcome boost for Joelinton, who has struggled since his move from Hoffenheim last year and missed a glorious opportunity in the first half at St James’ Park.

Joelinton was also at the centre of the game’s significant moment when he raced away from John Egan in the second half and was hauled back, triggering a red card for the Blades defender that sparked the visitors’ collapse.

“He personally has suffered in the lockdown more than anybody. He’s had no family here, no friends, holed up in an apartment somewhere,” Bruce said.

“He’s a really genuinely good lad and he gives his all for the team. We’re just delighted that he’s managed to score a goal. He can only get better.”

Wilder Fumes After Goalline Technology Mistake Denies Blades

Aston Villa’s English midfielder Jack Grealish (L), Sheffield United’s English manager Chris Wilder (2nd L) and Sheffield United’s English-born Northern Irish midfielder Oliver Norwood (3rd L) tap hands after the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Sheffield United at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on June 17, 2020. CARL RECINE / POOL / AFP

 

 

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder admitted he didn’t know whether to “laugh or cry” after a goalline technology blunder forced his side to settle for a damaging 0-0 draw at Aston Villa on Wednesday.

The Hawk-Eye system failed to award a goal when Villa keeper Orjan Nyland clearly carried Oliver Norwood’s first-half free-kick over the line.

Referee Michael Oliver and his officials were unable to intervene and VAR offered no help, leaving Wilder fuming over a decision that dented his team’s bid to qualify for the Champions League.

It was a controversial way for the Premier League to return in the first game since the top-flight was halted in March due to the coronavirus.

Hawk-Eye Innovations, which run the technology, issued a statement apologising for the error, claiming the fact Nyland, Villa team-mate Keinan Davis and the post were in the way meant no camera saw the ball cross the line.

But Wilder insisted it was clear the ball was over and said VAR should have come to the rescue.

“It was in the Holte End, the goalkeeper was in the Holte End and eight rows back. Everyone knew it, saw it and felt it,” he said.

“I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Already the jokes have started. It’s all going to come out but we’re pretty disappointed and we’ve got to get on with it.

“I believe a decision should have been made from Stockley Park (the VAR centre). For someone to tell me with seven cameras and this is the first time it’s happened in over 9,000 games it’s a difficult one to take.

“We’ve got Chris Kavanagh (fourth official), one of the best referees in the Premier League and Michael Oliver possibly one of the best referees in Europe and if you ask them they’ll be scratching their heads over how this situation occurred.

“We believe it should have been referred (to VAR).”

A statement from the Professional Game Match Officials Board explained why VAR did not intervene when the technology failed.

“Under the IFAB protocol, the VAR is able to check goal situations, however, due to the fact that the on-field match officials did not receive a signal, and the unique nature of that, the VAR did not intervene,” they said.

That was no consolation for Wilder, whose team are now sixth, four points behind fourth-placed Chelsea when the gap could have been closer.

It was a narrow escape for second bottom Villa and boss Dean Smith admitted they had been lucky to avoid defeat.

“We got away with one, certainly, with the technology not working. But I’ve been in the other position where technology has not been good for us at times,” Smith said.

“There’s always going to be some error, we have human error from officials and we have to accept that.

“There’s going to be errors in technology as we’ve seen with VAR this season and now for the first time ever with Hawk-Eye. We just have to accept it and move on, there’s nothing else we can do.

“We’re the ones who go away disappointed even with that controversy. The fact that we are just shows that the performance was good. We need to maintain that level.”

The return of top-flight football in England also gave players a platform to back the Black Lives Matter movement following the death of George Floyd.

Just before kick-off at Villa Park Oliver blew his whistle and all 22 players and the officials went down on one knee for around 10 seconds.

Both teams were also wearing shirts with players names replaced by the Black Lives Matter slogan, a gesture that will be replicated across the Premier League for the first 12 games.

Man City Retain League Cup After Aston Villa Win

Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola (C) celebrates with his backroom staff as City players celebrate their win after the English League Cup final football match between Aston Villa and Manchester City at Wembley stadium in London on March 1, 2020. Manchester City won the game 2-1. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

Manchester City claimed the League Cup for the fourth time in five seasons by beating Aston Villa 2-1 at Wembley on Sunday thanks to goals from Sergio Aguero and Rodrigo.

Mbwana Samatta pulled a goal back for Villa, but their wait for the club’s first silverware since 1996 goes on as Pep Guardiola’s men have now won six of the last seven major trophies in English football.

Guardiola made eight changes from the side that won 2-1 at Real Madrid in the Champions League on Wednesday with Kevin De Bruyne among those left on the bench.

However, it mattered little as City had the luxury of recalling Aguero, Raheem Sterling and David Silva to the starting XI, and the gulf in class showed.

Guardiola’s raft of changes also handed a rare start to Phil Foden and the 19-year-old more than justified his selection.

Rodrigo’s fine pass picked out Foden to head back into the path of Aguero and the Argentine’s deflected effort beat Orjan Nyland in the Villa goal to open the scoring on 20 minutes.

Foden was then inches away from a goal himself with a deflected shot that flew inches wide.

Villa felt aggrieved when City were awarded another corner moments later after Jack Grealish fired the ball off Ilkay Gundogan for what should have been a goal kick.

Instead, City doubled their lead as Gundogan’s corner was met with a powerful downward header from Rodrigo.

Villa could barely even get a touch for the next 10 minutes as the holders threatened to run riot in a repeat of the 6-1 thrashing they handed the hosts at Villa Park last month.

Sterling had a glorious chance for his first goal of 2020 deflected behind by a brave block from Tyrone Mings.

But moments later the reason Mings is ahead of John Stones in the pecking order for England selection became clear as the City defender inexplicably fell to the floor to give Villa a lifeline.

A long ball forward eventually came to Anwar El Ghazi and from his cross Samatta headed low past Claudio Bravo to the delight of the travelling thousands from Birmingham and Villa fan Prince William in the stands.

The difference in the desperation for success between the supports was obvious as Villa were roared on vociferously throughout, while City failed to sell out their allocation.

That did not compensate for the difference in quality on the field as City quickly settled back into their rhythm and could then introduce De Bruyne for the final half hour.

However, City failed to turn their dominance into more goals as Rodrigo was denied by a fine save by Nyland from another corner before Aguero then fired into the side-netting to give Villa hope for the last 10 minutes.

And they were very nearly punished as the often-criticised Bravo had to make a brilliant save three minutes from time to turn Bjorn Engels’ header onto the post and maintain City’s grip on the competition.

AFP

Man City Thrash Villa 6-1, Move To Second On Premier League Table

Manchester City’s Argentinian striker Sergio Aguero (R) takes on Aston Villa’s English defender Kortney Hause (L) during the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Manchester City at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on January 12, 2020. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Pep Guardiola said Sergio Aguero’s legendary status had grown again after becoming the Premier League’s top scoring foreign player with a hat-trick as Manchester City thrashed Aston Villa 6-1 on Sunday.

It may be too late to salvage City’s defence of the Premier League title as they remain 14 points behind runaway leaders Liverpool, who also have a game in hand, but led by Aguero the champions moved ahead of Leicester into second to show they will not give up the chase.

Aguero eclipsed Thierry Henry’s record as the top scoring non-English player in the Premier League by taking his tally to 177 goals and also surpassed Alan Shearer’s league record for hat-tricks with his 12th since joining City from Atletico Madrid in 2011.

“He was a legend and the legend rises tonight,” said Guardiola. “He is one of the most incredible players I’ve seen in this league.

“To score this amount of goals and hat-tricks means you have done for many, many years a lot of good things.

“You have to be consistent for many years so it’s an incredible compliment to him.”

Guardiola could afford the luxury of recalling Aguero among six changes to the side that also outclassed Manchester United in midweek to put one foot in the League Cup final.

Villa could be their opponents at Wembley on March 1 as they held Leicester 1-1 in the first leg of their semi-final on Wednesday, but on this evidence they would be powerless to stop City lifting the trophy for a third straight season.

The injury-hit hosts were without a recognised striker and first-choice goalkeeper after Wesley and Tom Heaton were ruled out for the rest of the season.

Former Spanish international ‘keeper Pepe Reina was in the stands ahead of his loan move from AC Milan being completed and will be needed if Villa are to beat the drop after conceding 13 goals in their last four home games.

“It was a chastening experience,” said Smith. “We are embarrassed by some of the goals we conceded today.

“We’ve come up against a top class team with a top class manager and got found out.”

Mahrez on the mark 

Orjan Nyland was beaten at his near post as Riyad Mahrez was allowed to cut onto his favoured left foot to open the floodgates on 18 minutes.

The Algerian’s old Leicester teammate Danny Drinkwater was making his Villa debut after troubled spells at Chelsea and Burnley since leaving the Foxes.

His lack of match practice was exposed for City’s second as Drinkwater was caught in possession inside his own box by Gabriel Jesus and the ball broke kindly for Mahrez to drill home his ninth goal of the season.

Aguero then thumped home a third, although Nyland could have got a stronger hand to the Argentine’s effort.

All that was missing from a complete City performance was a moment of inspiration from Kevin De Bruyne and the Belgian duly delivered with a wonderful curling cross to set the fourth on a plate for Jesus in first-half stoppage time.

City did not let up after the break and could have made it many more than six as David Silva picked out Aguero to calmly slot home his record-breaking goal.

The Argentine’s hat-trick arrived eight minutes from time as he demonstrated his array of finishes by this time blasting his past the helpless Nyland.

“I’m so happy for the record. It is thanks to my teammates, they help me in these nine years,” said Aguero.

“When I scored the second, I thought one more (and) I break the hat-trick record. I want to keep scoring more goals.”

Anwar El Ghazi scored from the penalty spot in stoppage time, but it was little consolation for Villa, who dropped into the relegation zone after Watford’s win at Bournemouth earlier in the day.

AFP