Men's Team

City 2-0 Villa | Digging deep to demonstrate our title credentials

City 2-0 Villa | Digging deep to demonstrate our title credentials
Referee Jon Moss blows the final whistle on City’s January home clash with Aston Villa, bringing a thoroughly entertaining game to a close.

City were pushed to their limits by Dean Smith’s men who, far from sitting in and holding on for a draw, had come to M11 for all three points.

But it was a test that we passed with flying colours, grinding out a late 2-0 victory with goals from Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan in the final 11 minutes.

Given our quest for what would be a third Premier League title in four seasons, it seems surprising that, on that rainy night in January, City led the way for the first time this season, albeit for a matter of hours.

Not only did it haul us to the summit, but victory under the Etihad lights provided ample demonstration of the steely togetherness that we have come to admire in Pep Guardiola’s men.

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Former City and Republic of Ireland defensive talisman Richard Dunne, watching on as part of our We’re Not Really Here coverage, argued that the victory, earned by a relentless display from the team, could prove significant going forward.

“Tonight feels like a really big win,” he reflected following the match to his colleagues in the WNRH studio, Joleon Lescott and presenter Cel Spellman.

“The atmosphere even when they were celebrating, they seemed like they wanted this badly tonight.

WATCH: City 2-0 Aston Villa: Extended highlights

“You can just sense we’re on a march.”

Lescott agreed, describing the emotions that only a victory at the death can conjure.

The former City and England defender explained: “When you score and win the game late on or equalise it feels like a win.

“It was a hard fought game for both teams, but a late win has a special feeling.”

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As Dunne and Lescott both alluded, it is perhaps the manner of the victory against Aston Villa that meant the most, rather than the resultant rise in league standing.

For all of the challenges thrown at us by the Villans, through the teeming rain and the howling winds, as the clock ticked down and the opportunity looked to have been squandered, City banded together and found a solution.

There had been a muted concern at half-time from inside the We’re Not Really Here studios that the result might get away from us, with Villa going in at the break relatively unscathed.


                        SLIDE RULE: Bernardo Silva and Phil Foden starts the celebrations after Bernardo's crucial strike
SLIDE RULE: Bernardo Silva and Phil Foden starts the celebrations after Bernardo's crucial strike

However, while Dunne was impressed with the way that Dean Smith’s side had defiantly stood up to the challenge, he remained confident that City would find the breakthrough.

“Most teams that come here have a game plan to sit back and keep the score down, but Villa have caused some trouble,” the former City skipper reflected during the break.

“For City to go on and win the game, they’re going to have to work in the second half.”

And work they did, with the elation palpable among the players when Bernardo Silva jinked his way onto his left foot and found the top corner to break Villa’s resistance.

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It was an emphatic finish that looked destined for the back of the net as soon as it left the Portuguese international’s boot.

“You never know,” the Portuguese midfielder grinned when asked if he knew his shot was in straight away.

“But it was a good strike and I am happy to have helped the team.

WATCH: Bernardo welcomes that winning feeling!

“We enjoyed it very much, but it’s just three points and it's on to the next one as we know how tough that is going to be.

"I think the momentum is very good. We are solid at the back and we are getting used to winning and winning and we have to keep that going.

"I am happy to help the team in any way I can.”

Bernardo's response yet again exemplified the squad’s collective ethos and relentless focus on success.

Rather than bask in the glow of a spectacular strike and a game-changing performance, the 26-year-old and his teammates had already set their sights on the next match.

Pep Guardiola had a similar message when he faced the media after the game, but was aware of how crucial the win could prove to be going forward at the time.

“We are back since the Newcastle game playing the way we need to play to be champions,” declared the City boss.


                        SPOT ON|: Ilkay Gundogan seals victory against Aston Villa from the penalty spot
SPOT ON|: Ilkay Gundogan seals victory against Aston Villa from the penalty spot

“Everyone wants to be champion, but you have to show you deserve it. We controlled many aspects. We had the right tempo, conceded few. We have to be more clinical in the final third, but we will improve.

“(The performance was) really good against an incredible top side. The same level, quite similar to the last games since Newcastle when we have started to play much better.

“I was really impressed with our performance. We played really well.”

A statement was made under the Etihad lights back in January; that this City side possessed a collective grit to complement our customary and well-documented panache.

Guardiola’s men went top for the first time this season when we beat Aston Villa in January; another victory on Wednesday could move us to within seven points of the title.

And at one of English football’s most historic stadiums, City will hope to write another unforgettable chapter in what is edging towards becoming a truly memorable campaign.

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