Aston Villa may not have been able to stop Erling Haaland, but Steven Gerrard’s side stopped the striker from breaking loose and Manchester City claimed victory. Stopping Haaland was a daunting prospect in itself, but given the way City have eviscerated their opponents of late, it represented an impressive cue from Villa, who equalized thanks to Leon Bailey’s wonderful first finish.
When Haaland scored his 10th goal in six games five minutes into the second half, it looked like City would add to Gerrard’s misery, but Villa woke up to claim a point. In the end, it was Pep Guardiola, in khaki cargo pants and white trainers, who was left on the touchline in frustration.
In fairness, City should have been out of sight. Haaland was twice repelled by Villa keeper Emi Martínez, Ilkay Gündogan failed to latch on to Kevin De Bruyne’s nasty cross from the right and the Belgian then delivered a clean free kick which dove over the crossbar after Tyrone Mings tripped Haaland on the edge. from the D as the attacker waded towards the goal.
City missed two more chances in the final throes. First Rodri sent a whistling shot past a post, then a minute later substitute Riyad Mahrez drilled painfully wide. But Villa felt aggrieved that Philippe Coutinho scored a possible winner because referee Simon Hooper whistled after spying that assistant referee Adrian Holmes had signaled for offside. Many City players had stopped by the time the ball beat Ederson.
Haaland started this game with aspirations of becoming the first player in 76 years to score a hat-trick in a third consecutive top game, but for a long time City failed to fuel the Haaland machine. After four minutes, Kyle Walker skated forward on the straddle, but fired a shot instead of heading towards Haaland who was hiding to his left.
It seemed a foolish move given that six of Haaland’s nine goals before kick-off came from inside the penalty area. Walker raised his palms regretfully and another apology quickly came to Haaland when returning De Bruyne, who replaced Julian Álvarez in City’s only change, overcooked a through ball that gave no luck to the City striker. Haaland finished the first half with 10 touches to his name.
Either way, City were sailing, monopolizing possession and when Ollie Watkins was able to hold the ball and win a foul for Villa, it seemed like cause for celebration. It was a generally demoralizing existence for Villa until seven minutes before half-time when Ashley Young, who replaced injured Matty Cash at right-back, emerged victorious in a tussle with De Bruyne as City looked to come back up. the ground on the counter.
Young extinguished the danger and located Douglas Luiz, the subject of three deadline offers from Arsenal, who slipped Watkins behind John Stones. Watkins made a few passes and fired a low diagonal shot at goal which Stones was able to deflect wide for a corner. Just as it seemed Villa had figured out how to stifle City, branded a superpower by Gerrard, they were guilty of presenting the sharpest shooter in world football with the most routine finishes.
Haaland’s goal was simple. He went unmarked for pushing a suspended De Bruyne cross into the net five minutes into the second half. Bernardo Silva and De Bruyne exchanged passes down the right and the latter sent in a looping cross from the right. The ball sailed over Martínez and Konsa was also caught under the ball and Haaland simply sidestepped at the back post.
City should have put the game to bed but when Bailey equalized they couldn’t deny they hadn’t been cautioned. Before the hour mark, Watkins played Jacob Ramsey who, had it not been for his somewhat heavy touch and the liveliness of Ederson who rushed to nick the ball, could have scored. Bailey deflected wide on the half-volley soon after, then with 74 minutes on the clock he equalized. Ramsey moved to the left and crossed for the former Bayer Leverkusen winger to drive the ball into the corner.
Even when things went wrong, City Haaland emerged from the rubble. De Bruyne launched an effort on goal which crashed into the Norwegian’s back, but seconds after the striker swore at himself for getting in the way he woke up as a triangle of Villa shirts fell asleep.
Haaland controlled the ball and deftly sent it into the path of De Bruyne, who fired a shot from just wide. “It’s going to be fascinating to see how this plays out because even though he’s not in the right place or he hasn’t stepped on the accelerator, he’s still a big threat,” Gerrard said of of Haaland.
Leon Bailey earns Aston Villa point after Haaland strikes for Manchester City