Mark Hughes has hailed Wednesday night’s win over Villa as one of the best City performances of the season.
An Elano penalty and a late SWP strike were scant reward for a performance that created a host of good chances and that kept a much-admired Villa side, usually so good on the road, on the back foot for long periods especially in the first half.
Hughes said after the game, “It was one of the best performances of the season, if not the one, because of the different elements we had to produce to win the match.
“We have shown that we can test ourselves on an equal footing with a team like Aston Villa. The first half was as good as we have been able to produce, if we are honest we should have been out sight by half time but you expect a reaction from Villa and we got it.
“They brought on John Carew and we had a different type of challenge in the second half. We had to stand up to Villa's physical presence, and we did that as well. It was about resolve and determination. The crowd understood when we were under pressure, and they got behind us to give a bit of help when we needed it. The second goal was the icing on the cake on a very accomplished performance.”
Stephen Ireland’s and SWP’s combination drew warm praise from the Manager, who added, “Their movement and understanding caused Aston Villa real problems, we were able to exploit the confusion they created. They had pace, skill and no little amount of technical ability. Dunnie was different class as well, we needed people to stand up and be counted, and he led from the front. All in all, a great pefroasmce, I am delighted.”
Hughes also confirmed better news on the injury front, saying that Craig Bellamy is likely to be out for three to four weeks, but “with a bit of luck and intense treatment on him that might be two to three weeks.” Nigel de Jong tweaked a knee before half time and was brought off after feeling more discomfort as soon as he resumed after the break, but Hughes said he is hopeful that it is nothing serious.
Villa manager Martin O’Neill had no complaints about the result, saying, “That poor first half was very unlike us, City started very brightly and kept their momentum going for at least half an hour, but the second half was a different picture. We showed a lot more determination but were not able to capitalise. I felt sure we were going to get the equaliser, but it did not happen. The second goal did not make an incredible difference.”