Wembley Report & Ratings: Aston Villa 1-2 Manchester City – Carabao Cup Final

This was a patient and at times spirited display from a Villa side with the odds stacked firmly against them.

Whilst we left Wembley without any silverware, there was enough in the performance to suggest that we can fight for Premier League survival.

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A casual glance at any pre-match odds (you could get Villa at 20/1) and City’s bench was enough to bring on a cold sweat.  This was a Villa side that had been pumped 6-1 by our opposition just weeks earlier and had dropped to second bottom after a weekend of unfavourable results elsewhere.

Through claret-tinted glasses, this was a game of containment, dubious officiating at key junctures and a result ultimately dictated by Bravo’s late save onto the post from Engels’ header.

With the glasses removed, we saw City confident and comfortable for long periods, effortlessly moving the ball.  They carried purpose and threat in abundance, but then, we expected that.

El Ghazi, a decent performer on the day, went close with an early header, guiding his effort onto the roof of the net.  Elmohamady rightly recalled delivered the cross expertly.

Aguero, back in the City side after being rested in their midweek victory over Real Madrid, followed suit just minutes later.  Nyland breathing a sigh of relief as the ball landed above the goal.

The Argentine striker wasn’t to be kept off the scoresheet, guiding home on 20 minutes after a neatly worked goal deflecting in off Mings.  1-0.

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Foden, the provider for the opener then went close himself, flashing a dangerous effort across the front of the Villa goal.  We were beginning to chase shadows.

Next it was time for an officiating blunder, with neither referee nor his assistant spotting an obvious goal kick, instead awarding Man City a corner.

From the erroneous set-piece, Villa defended woefully, gifting Rodri the freedom of Wembley and a header to put them two ahead.  A goal, whilst it should never have been enabled, it should have been at least contested by our defence.

It could have got worst just moments later had Mings not thrown himself in front of a Sterling effort, blocking a strike that deflected wide via his flailing torso.

But then came hope, courtesy of a fine goal from Samatta.

Villa took full advantage of a John Stones stumble to burst forward.  El Ghazi rifled a perfect dipping cross into the box for Samatta to thunder a diving header beyond Bravo.  It was a superb lifeline just minutes before half-time.

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The second half saw City emerge with renewed purpose, even introducing De Bruyne for good measure.

There were glimpses for Villa though.

Elmohamady burst forward after the hour mark and produced another excellent cross.  City contained the danger, with Samatta only managing a flick before the ball curled beyond El Ghazi who was lurking at the far post.

With 15 minutes to go, Stones forced a smart save from Nyland, blocking low to his left from a corner.  On 80 minutes Aguero rocked the net, but only the outside, his volley going just wide.

It was now relentless, waves of attacks from City with Villa smothering everything they could.

Villa, encouragingly had teeth when required too.  Nakamba was harshly carded for a firm but fair challenge on Ageuro.

It was Engels who almost took the roof off the stadium, rising to head a corner towards goal, only to see his effort somehow saved onto the post in the 87th minute.  The fine margins between elation and agony.

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Some days, it’s not to be.  This wasn’t to be a repeat of the infamous victory over Manchester United (1993) nor the destruction of Leeds United (1996).

For us, we simply need to take the effort, determination and belief into our remaining games.  Ultimately, this will be the difference between retaining our Premier League status or having to endure life back in The Championship.

We saw enough to suggest that our 19th place in the league is misleading, however, the league table doesn’t lie and we have to start winning football matches.  Immediately.

We will also need to examine our in-game tactics, with the decision to remove the dangerous El Ghazi and goalscorer Samatta rather than support them in the closing stages needlessly cautious.

For Man City, this perhaps represent a trophy of lesser importance.  Whilst few would deny that they are a big club, the visible blocks of empty seats and absence of any meaningful contribution towards the atmosphere was a real surprise.  Especially those who can recall the noise generated in a ground like Maine Road.

Amongst those that did attend, many didn’t bother to wait and take in their side (adopted or not) lifting the trophy.  Instead, they streamed out and in many cases were ahead of the departing Villa fans in leaving London.  Bizarre.

So, Villa’s road to the final was a mixed bag and a day out a Wembley is always welcome.  This wasn’t the mauling some had predicted and despite not adding to our illustrious history, we can certainly leave with our heads held high.

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Aston Villa 1-2 Manchester City
  • Ørjan Nyland
  • Frederic Guilbert
  • Ahmed Elmohamady
  • Tyrone Mings
  • Bjorn Engels
  • Matt Targett
  • Anwar El Ghazi
  • Douglas Luiz
  • Marvellous Nakamba
  • Jack Grealish
  • Mbwana Samatta
  • Conor Hourihane (Sub On)
  • Kienan Davis (Sub On)
  • Trezeguet (Sub On)
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