So close & yet so far.  Villa surrender hard earned point at City. #avfc #mcfc

It is the sign of how much Villa have improved and when you feel points were dropped at the league Champions.  It was a tale of horrendous mistakes, missed opportunity and refereeing blunders.  

At full time, conceding so late after hauling the match back from the abyss, is a massive frustration.  However, we can only look to our suicidal defending and of course, the Guzan clanger, for evidence of how we left with precisely nothing.

The game was barely three minutes old when Guzan dropped a “worldie” clanger.  His failure to knock a ball barely twenty yards to Okore across his box will be the feature of many a blooper reel.  It can be dissected repeatedly, but plainly you should never pass across your box, least of all if there’s a predatory striker lurking.  

The gameplan was, therefore, out of the window.

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Villa rocked badly for a quarter of an hour after this, visibly trying to get the game back under control.  City had opportunities to extend their lead, with Guzan flapping at a cross he was never going to meet.  The header fortunately drifted wide.  It had the feeling of one of “those” games.

Villa then started to win the battle of the midfield & the game began to turn a little.  After good pressure from Vlaar on the edge of the City box, the ball ricocheted to Benteke who was presented with a glorious chance to level.  Hart responded with a fine low save.

Benteke was a menace once again, physical and skillful.  He won everything in the air.  Benteke was though repeatedly offside, often for no good reason.  There is no denying his talent, but a little wisdom watching along the line and he would get even more sniffs at goal.

Villa looked steady in the early phases of the second half, until once more gifting a goal away.

Sanchez, who had been guilty of loose passes all afternoon [quelle surprise!] hacked down Fernandinho on the edge of the box.  It was a glorious spot for a free kick.  It also turned out to be a glorious spot for Villa to construct the worst wall in living memory.  Bacuna turned his back, Richardson forgot he was an integral part of it and the ball duly found its way to the back of the net. 2-0.

Utterly shambolic defending.  Sherwood must tear his hair out.

Then the comeback.  For all the hopeless defending we looked good in the midfield and a constant threat on the break.

Cleverley finished a goalmouth scramble, drilling through a crowd.  Sanchez then turned the match on it’s head by scoring a lovely controlled volley to level the tie with minutes remaining.  Both players’ first goals in the league this season, again, evidence of quite how poor we have been over long swathes of it.

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And that should have been it.  But no.  Villa seemed comfortable, City resigned to a draw, until once more the self destruct button was pressed.  A corner was won by City the cross drifted past every man, woman and child, through a sea of white shirts to Fernandinho.  He was allowed the freedom of northern England to control and volley beyond the despairing Guzan to steal the points.

Bugger.  A head in hands, “how did we manage that?” kind of moment.  Every point secured in our run in matters, this would have stood as an unexpected one.  Let’s hope we don’t rue losing it.

Two other flash points that are worth mentioning.  The Bacuna pull on Aguero was a let off as the ref completely missed it.  Even more inexplicable was Benteke being called offside and then being chopped down by Hart.  Two officials looking at it, unable to determine the obvious.  Much is said of the standards of refereeing, all I will add is that Mike Dean’s pompous swagger oozes faux celebrity status rather than professional competence.  

Overall, we have to temper our expectations, but it’s frustrating to come so close to a point only to surrender it.  I’m confident that Villa will stay up, but with results like this (and vs. QPR) we are making harder work of it than it need be.  It only takes an unexpected result elsewhere and a slip up for us for things to get interesting.

We now go into a massive clash against Everton with a chasing pack on our heels.  It’s time to dig deep and produce the goods on our own pitch, iron out the mistakes and secure our top flight status.  It’s that simple..

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