The first half was one that consisted mostly of stupid mistakes for Aston Villa. The first one came in the third minute when Brad Guzan gifted a goal to Manchester City. Ron Vlaar, under a little bit of pressure, sent a pass back to Guzan. The keeper went to clear the ball straight ahead and... missed? Whiffed? Was terrible? The ball glanced off the side of his foot and went straight into the path of Sergio Agüero who put the ball into a practically empty net. It was probably the dumbest mistake we've ever seen Guzan make. It appeared to shake him up, too, as it took him quite a while in thehalf to settle down and become effective again.
Luckily for Villa, after 15 minutes of looking ready to lose 5-0, they pulled things together and actually looked to be the better team for the rest of the half. But the stupid mistakes continued in the form of countless offside strikers who wasted big chances. Nevertheless, being down 1-0 at halftime felt fair, and Villa still felt very much in the match.
The second half saw City come out looking like the better team, but only because Villa didn't look very good. Less than a week after giving up a goal because of not clearing the ball from the box, Villa were back to that idea and showing an extreme reluctance to clear again. It came back to bite them in the 66th minute when Carlos Sánchez had to make a tackle just outside the box on a ball that should have been cleared. The tackle resulted in a free kick, and Aleksandar Kolarov was able to curl in a beautiful effort to make it 2-0. Brad Guzan misplayed the kick terribly, but equal fault could be given to Kieran Richardson, who had the chance (as a member of the wall) to get in front of the ball but flinched away instead and let it past.
But then, only two minutes later, Joe Hart decided to get on the "keepers playing like idiots" train. A Villa free kick saw Hart come charging off of his line, but after the danger had passed he stayed out at the penalty spot while Tom Cleverley had the chance to take a shot from just outside the box. With no one covering the goal, he was able to blast it in for his first goal of the season. From there, Villa started to sustain attacks and it looked as if they might have a chance at pulling even.
And pull even they did in the 85th when Carlos Sanchez was able to volley a ball parried off the line by Joe Hart. It was an absolutely gorgeous goal made even better by the fact that it felt like it might have assured a point. This is Villa, though, and things can't be that easy. Four minutes later Fernandinho, who had come on at the half for Yaya Touré, made a beautiful shot off of a corner that Brad Guzan defended absolutely terribly. City had the lead, and despite a valiant effort by Villa, they came away with nothing.
But that's sort of what we expected. Everton come to town next week and West Ham the week after. A win in either match is likely all we need, and the last day match against Burnley looks less and less likely to be meaningful for them as they continue their slide into the Championship. It was a loss with some positives and a lot of stupid. But pick up and move on.
- That Guzan error. Eeesh. Villa fans on twitter of course reacted by calling for his head and being as rash as can be. Guzan has still been largely good this year, but the great play of Shay Given in the FA Cup combined with the fact that Guzan is definitely not at his best right now will definitely give Tim Sherwood something to think about.
- Tim Sherwood might consider bringing in an offside coach. One day a week the entire team just works on what it means to be offside and how to avoid it.
- That Brad Guzan error should be "those Brad Guzan errors." Easily his worst day this season. The defense on both second-half goals was particularly appalling.
- Christian Benteke spent much of the day offside, but he had the chance to give Villa a lead after the Sánchez goal. Replay showed him onside, but the linesman's flag went up. Interestingly, Benteke was pretty clearly fouled by Hart and a penalty could have easily been awarded. But it was one of those offside calls like Balotelli got last weekend: when you spend the whole day offside, you don't get the benefit of the doubt.