Vital League Cup Report - v Man City
Attendance: 28 015
Manchester City V Aston Villa
League Cup Match Report.
With £180 million of talent in the starting line up punters and pundits would have been forgiven for slapping their hard earn coin on a resounding City win. Indeed, after Villa's second-half mauling at the hands of Southampton, Tevez, Balotelli, Dzeko and co. must have been rubbing their hands expectantly. However, after a rain lashed gruelling work out against Villa's young guns, City found themselves ceremoniously dumped out of the League Cup, a competition they are yet to win.
It was Villa who started the brightest though they were guilty once more of not taking their chances, Benteke stuttering his lines twice. Unfortunately for Villa, not converting their early good play would cost them. In the 27th minute Balotelli found himself in receipt of a James Milner cross, spinning and shooting well to send the ball crashing passed Given. One chance; one goal. Villa perhaps did not deserve to be behind after a resounding first half performance in which they largely dominated, partly owing to a sluggish City showing. However, it was yet another reminder that possession is nothing without the goals that come from it.
Paul Lambert, who had made six changes tonight, showed faith in his players. His team responded and they needed to, for City came out the second half brighter, better and with a one goal lead. Villa pressed and fought back hard, hitting City on the counter attack with growing regularity, eventually equalising in the 59th minute. Weimann's daisy cutting cross was palmed away by Pantilimon toward a hapless Gareth Barry who could only watch on as it deflected into his own net. It was a fortuitous goal from the ex-Villa captain met with ironic cries of 'there's only one Gareth Barry,' from the jubilant away supporters.'
City struck back instantly with a Kolarov free kick. The dead ball specialist sent the ball curling over the wall and into the net, City re-taking the lead. Villa, who spectacularly collapsed against Southampton, have obviously, in their managers words, 'taken their medicine,' none more so than the scintillating Agbonlahor. Now in his favoured central position he began the business of taking City's experimental three man defence to town. Showing character and leadership, he used his trademark, power and speed to torment the City defenders. His reward came after a one-two with Benteke allowed him to burst through the middle and score with a well taken goal that put Villa level. With fight and bottle running through the team, Villa went into the ascendancy.
If the goal mouth was heating up so were events on the touch line, with Lambert and City boss Mancini entering into a war of words over referring decision's or the latter`s perceived lack of them. With the rain hammering down and extra time looming it added to what was a tense atmosphere, lapped up by the 28,015 souls who had braved the weather.
Towards the end of time City went close twice. Balotelli's effort was saved by Given though he could only then watch as Tevez shaved the bar with a brilliantly struck free kick though it was not enough to prevent the onset of extra-time.
Villa wasted no time, taking the lead in the 96th minute, Nzogbia tucking home after Pantilimon parried Agbonlahor's rasping shot back into the area. City seemed to have no answer and were assured of defeat when Agbonlahor's 113th minute effort looped over the stranded Pantilimon. For Agbonlahor this was a potent reminder to Lambert of his importance to the team; that Bent should not necessarily be the man who starts with Benteke.
Overall, this was a memorable victory for Villa who once again showed character in numbers and ability with the football. Momentum and confidence will naturally be massive in the squad as a result, with key players having staked their claim for a starting role on Sunday.
An opportunity for continuity has been created. It must now be taken.
Room for Improvement: Benteke