Aston Villa fans have long stated their ambitions of qualifying for the Champions League this season, and their sentiment finally bore fruition today as Leon Bailey’s solitary goal against the treble-winning defending champions moved them to 3rd, ahead of Manchester City by 2 points. Leon Bailey and Aston Villa were in excellent form heading into this high-profile match, with the Lions winning four of their last five games while the Citizens struggled for wins against Chelsea, Spurs and Liverpool. Admittedly, City faced stiffer opposition, but they were winning in those matches and let it slip from their grasp. Today, City felt down and beaten from the get-go as they were subpar compared to the home side.
Leon Bailey Sealed Aston Villa’s 14th Consecutive Home Win in the Premier League
Despite City’s lacklustre performance, we must credit Leon Bailey and Aston Villa for their dominant showing as they bossed the Champions all over the pitch. For example, Villa registered 22 shots against the visitors across the 90 minutes, with their opposition only registering two efforts from Erling Haaland, which were well-saved by Emiliano Martínez. It’s the fewest shots attempted by a Guardiola team in a match within Europe’s big-five leagues. In addition, Villa won the ball back 13 times in the opposition half, the most any team has done in a league game against Guardiola’s City.
The game was all Villa, and they got their just rewards 16 minutes from time as Leon Bailey picked the ball just inside the City half and darted off, weaving past defenders right and left before striking towards the goal. Despite many claiming it was fortunate, you make your own luck in Football, and Leon Bailey definitely did with his determined run to make something out of nothing. Leon Bailey’s goal eventually proved the winner as Villa toyed with possession and muted City at Villa Park, condemning them to 4th with the Citizens winless in four straight Premier League matches.
On the other hand, Villa are sitting pretty in third after this win equalled their 91-year record stretching back to 1932 of 14 successive victories at home. As for Unai Emery, he finally picked up his first-ever victory against Man City boss Pep Guardiola on what was his 14th attempt at doing so. Before tonight, Guardiola was the manager he had faced often without winning in his career at Arsenal and Sevilla (13 games – D4 L9).
Aston Villa’s last 14 Premier League games at home:
1-0 win vs. Crystal Palace
3-0 win vs. Bournemouth
2-0 win vs. Nottingham Forest
3-0 win vs. Newcastle
1-0 win vs. Fulham
2-1 win vs. Spurs
2-1 win vs. Brighton
4-0 win vs. Everton
3-1 win vs. Crystal Palace
6-1 win vs.… pic.twitter.com/1sLpE5f9OO
— B/R Football (@brfootball) December 6, 2023
Unai Emery Delighted with Leon Bailey’s Performance and His First Win Over Pep Guardiola
Speaking about his first-ever victory over his fellow Spaniard, Unai Emery stated: “Beating him for me is not something special. It is a process. We were preparing for the match, trying to get this good performance collectively. We wanted to impose our game on Manchester City. We did it, more or less. We did good work defensively with a high press and trying to be aggressive.”
Moreover, Unai Emery praised Leon Bailey, Emiliano Martínez and the fans for their crucial role today. “Leon Bailey is a very good player and sometimes what a player. Our challenge with him and his challenge is to be consistent. Today, he played an amazing match, and I will try to get him to do the same on Saturday. He is trying to help the team, and with his skills and quality, he is very important to us. Tonight he was fantastic, and we can enjoy it with him. As for Emiliano, he saved us in one or two actions. We were getting more comfortable as we were connected with our supporters as they pushed us.”
When questioned regarding his team’s title ambitions after his side’s victory against City, Unai Emery played down their title chances and took it one game at a time. “Today was fantastic, but keep balanced. The next challenge is on Saturday. We’re going to focus on the Arsenal game at home. We’re feeling strong with our supporters, but it is the leaders coming here. We have to smile, but it’s so quick before we’re thinking about Saturday.”
Pep Guardiola Acknowledged Defeat and Admitted City is Struggling for Form
On City’s end, Pep Guardiola acknowledged that his team were second fiddle to Leon Bailey’s Villa today. “The better team won. Aston Villa were better than us. We struggled to make some process, and after, especially when they defended with a medium block, we didn’t find the moments behind. It was really difficult because they were really physical and able to control many aspects. That is the reason why they are up there, playing good football, and we could not do it.”
Furthermore, he dismissed that Rodri could have changed the result in their favour. “With Rodri, we could not win against Liverpool and Spurs. Of course, he is important. But it is my job to find a way to do it.”
As for the team’s struggle, Pep admitted it is his job to find a solution. “It is my duty, my job to find a way to come back from the situation. Over many years together, we were able to find a way to win games, and now we are struggling. We have to change the dynamic, winning as soon as possible against Luton and Crystal Palace to continue to be there, and I have to think about it.”
🔵 Pep Guardiola: “Aston Villa were the best team on the pitch tonight”.
“They play a fantastic game… and we struggled to make our process and be more aggressive in some moments in-behind. The better team won”. pic.twitter.com/nF7eEdPy6E
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) December 7, 2023
City Have Always Bounced Back From Blips in a Season
While it is understandable for rival fans such as Arsenal and Liverpool to lick their lips after seeing this result and City’s current form, City has always struggled early or mid-season and has found ways to recover and retain their title. Remember the seasons when Arsenal and Liverpool were double-digit points ahead? Guess what happened next.
Admittedly, City has looked more vulnerable compared to previous seasons, with Guardiola jokingly saying that he will retire if City retain the treble again. However, City is a team you can never count out, and with the close return of Kevin De Bruyne, City could make magic sparkle again.
For more Premier League action this holiday season, follow AsiaSport for daily updates and high-definition highlights of the games you may have missed or rewatched the games such as Leon Bailey’s goal against City.
🗣️ ‘If we win the treble this season, I’ll retire. That’s for sure’
Pep Guardiola has made this BOLD claim ahead of Man City’s clash with Aston Villa😳 pic.twitter.com/gQHD4TCGcP
— Mail Sport (@MailSport) December 6, 2023