Phil Foden was the hat-trick hero as City made it 24 matches unbeaten across all competitions with a 4-1 victory over Aston Villa at the Etihad Stadium.

Rodrigo’s opener was cancelled out shortly afterwards by Villa’s Jhon Duran before our Academy graduate took centre stage.

A free-kick just ahead of half-time was followed up by two exquisite strikes in the second period to earn Foden his third City match ball.

That was enough to see us past Unai Emery’s Champions League chasing side, who were the last team to get the better of us back in December.

After Sunday’s stalemate with Arsenal ended our run of 57 consecutive home matches with at least one goal, this was a welcome return to our prolific best.

The result means City are level on points with Liverpool having played a game more, while we are one point back from leaders Arsenal.

What happened

Pep Guardiola made four changes to his City side after the goalless draw with Arsenal just three days earlier, including naming Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland on the bench.

Two of the players brought into the team linked up beautifully for the first chance of the night inside three minutes.

Cutting in from the left, Jack Grealish scooped the ball through for Julian Alvarez to run onto and strike into the side netting on the turn.

City were relentless in attack and it was no surprise when the opener came in the 11th minute.

Driving from the right, Phil Foden slid the ball down the line for Jeremy Doku, who picked out Rodrigo perfectly.

The Spaniard didn’t have to break stride as he hammered it high into Robin Olsen’s goal.

City continued to come forward over and over again but to the shock of the Etihad, it was Aston Villa who scored next.

Enjoying a rare breakaway, Jhon Duran linked with Morgan Rogers before tucking his shot inside the far post.

A VAR check gave City hope that the Colombian forward was offside but closer inspection revealed the goal to be fair.

Unperturbed, we were straight back on the front foot.

A Grealish volley bounced just wide of Olsen’s goal before a series of attacks were snuffed out at the last moment by Villa’s defence.

Olsen’s next serious save came in the 37th minute when Rico Lewis slipped a ball through for Julian Alvarez.

The Argentine kept his head down and struck across the goal, only Olsen’s right leg to divert it away.

City did not let up but it appeared a second goal just would not come for Guardiola’s side.

That was until Phil Foden stepped on to a free-kick he won himself on the edge of the box.

The England international exploited a weakness in the Villa wall, curling his shot inside the post to a rapturous response from the Etihad crowd.

Alvarez could even have made it three just seconds before the half-time whistle, but saw his header from Bernardo Silva’s cross tipped over by Olsen.

The second period continued as the first had left off, with Olsen forced into smart saves from Doku and Bernardo in the opening exchanges.

Our visitors demonstrated their threat on the transition in the 55th minute when Douglas Luiz curled a shot that Stefan Ortega Moreno was forced to tip over.

The German goalkeeper had to be alert from the resulting corner too, clawing Clement Lenglet’s glanced header to safety.

Foden eventually gave us breathing room in the 61st minute, guiding a shot from the 18 yard line in off the post.

He was set up brilliantly by Rodrigo, who found him with a delicate bit of skill deflecting the ball of his right foot on to his left.

The pick of Foden‘s three was still to come.

Picking himself up after being nudged to the floor, Foden shifted the ball on to his left foot and unleashed an unstoppable strike into the top corner.

It’s his third City hat-trick and second of the season after a stunning display at Brentford in February.

There was a party atmosphere inside the Etihad from that moment, with the 53,422-strong crowd determined to enjoy the performance and Guardiola keen to rest his most frequently used performers.

The loudest cheer of the night was, of course, reserved for Foden when substituted in the 80th minute.


CITY XI: Ortega Moreno, Lewis, Akanji, Dias (C), Gvardiol, Rodrigo (Nunes 75), Bernardo (Kovacic 75), Doku (Gomez 80), Foden (Bobb 80), Grealish, Alvarez

Subs: Carson, Stones, Haaland, De Bruyne, Susoho

ASTON VILLA XI: Olsen, Konsa, Carlos, Lenglet, Digne, Iroegbunum (Tielemans 63), Luiz (Chambers 63), Zaniolo, Rogers, Diaby (Bailey 63), Duran (Moreno 71)

Subs: Gauci, Torres, Kesler-Hayden, Kellyman

Pep Guardiola reaction

“We played a really good game, at Villa Park they were better. Today we were better.

“We missed a lot of chances, but we created a lot. We played really good inside with Phil, Rico and Rodri. Wides were really good with Jack and Jeremy so we made a good game. We created a lot and could’ve scored more goals.”

Man of the match

Phil Foden - Who else?

Our Academy graduate was deployed in a central role this evening and looked up for it from the first moment.

He got the move started for Rodrigo‘s opener, expertly weighting his pass for Jeremy Doku to step on to and cross.

However, it’s in front of goal where he has made the most marked improvement to his game this season.

He’s undoubtedly been one of the most influential players in this Premier League season.

This hat-trick comprised of three sweet left-footed strikes that most of us could only dream of. It takes him to 21 goals for the season - by far the best output in his career so far.

As a local lad and one of the best players in the world, he is adored by City fans.

That was proven in the 80th minute when all four sides stood to applaud as he was substituted.

Rodrigo reaction

On the win: “We knew that we have to have players in the box, we have to arrive in the box to score goals and that was the message at the start of the game.

On his goal: “I want to help the team, it’s not my role to score goals but I want to score more and it’s something I’ve been working on. Looking at myself after the games and if you want to improve you can do it.”

On Phil Foden“With this player he grows every single year. He can score whatever he wants, arriving in the box, he has a special quality, three today and so happy for him.”

On first win over a top-five team: “Something we’ve been struggling with this season to face the teams at the top - beating Aston Villa 4-1 is not easy but we did it.

“We’re there, we knew we had to do our homework. We did it and now we focus on the next game.”

Lively Lewis

Rico Lewis has found starts difficult to come by in 2024 but made the most of this opportunity to impress.

From his starting position at right-back, Lewis instead spent much of his time alongside Rodrigo at the base of midfield. Where the Spaniard is the midfield metronome, Lewis brought the tireless energy.

Forcing his way through even the narrowest of gaps and brave enough to receive the ball under extreme pressure, Lewis was a vital cog in keeping the ball moving forward as quickly as possible.

It was the speed in which he and Rodrigo played it into advanced areas that gave Jack Grealish and Jeremy Doku the opportunities to run at their full-backs.

His determined tackles buoyed the Etihad enormously too.

What it means

City move to 67 points from 30 matches in the 2023/24 Premier League, level with Liverpool who will play Sheffield United on Thursday evening.

Arsenal are the new Premier League leaders with 68 points from their 30 games.

What’s next

City travel to Crystal Palace for a 12:30 (UK) kick-off on Saturday 6 April.

The reverse fixture earlier this season ended in a 2-2 draw while we edged a 1-0 win at Selhurst Park last March.

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