Paul Lambert Deserves All the Credit for Aston Villa's Win over Man City
Villa twice trailed to Manuel Pellegrini's men, but, in an astonishing comeback, were able to turn around their fortunes and the scoreline to secure their first home win of the season. The home side's victory also denied City a first win on the road.
There's no doubt about it, Villa rode their luck. Massively. The visitors had the lion's share of possession—67 per cent, in fact—and had 20 shots on goal to Villa's eight, yet Lambert deserves a huge amount of credit for his side's win.
|Aston Villa||Possession||Shots||Shots on Target||Corners|
|Manchester City||Possession||Shots||Shots on Target||Corners|
With Villa missing the likes of Jores Okore, Ashley Westwood, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Christian Benteke, Lambert was forced to make a number of changes and experiment with a rather risky formation. Dutch midfielder Leandro Bacuna continued in an unfamiliar right wing-back position, replacing Matthew Lowton who has had a less-than-satisfactory start to the season, as the hosts opted for a 3-5-2 formation.
The Scotsman also continued with Karim El Ahmadi in the heart of the Villa midfield, though the Moroccan's performances this season have seen many fans call for him to be replaced in the side. El Ahmadi's 66-minute stint against Newcastle in Villa's previous home match was, without doubt, one of the worst performances you are likely to see this season. His passing was way off the mark, tackling weak, shooting non-existent and overall contribution woefully short of what is required of a Premier League midfielder. A large applause greeted his substitution late in the game.
Despite that, the Villa boss stuck with his man, selecting him for the victory over Norwich at Carrow Road as well as the clash against City.
As expected, City dominated the opening stages and were the far superior side in the opening 45 minutes. Time and time again City knocked on the Villa door but were unsuccessful in their attempts, for the most part. Samir Nasri fired wide after just ten minutes before a combination of Edin Dzeko and Aleksandar Kolarov failed to find the net from close range. Yaya Toure's header from Nasri's corner was cleared off the line with five first-half minutes remaining, but the outcome proved very different moments later as the Ivorian volleyed under Guzan.
The goal was nothing less than City deserved, with Villa completely outplayed during the first period. Lambert's half-time team talk must have been inspiring, though, as Villa were a different side following the break.
Bacuna and El Ahmadi linked on the edge of the City area after five second-half minutes as Villa drew level. There was a hint of offside, but El Ahmadi ignored the protests of the City players to slam the ball past Joe Hart.
The goal will have certainly hushed a number of the midfielder's critics and will go a long way to repaying the faith shown in him by Lambert during a tough spell. In an interview with Aston Villa's Paul Brown, Lambert spoke of his delight at the Moroccan's recent form.
Karim came out at the start of the (2012/13) season and did really well. Then we lost him to the African Nations and he found it hard to come back in after that. He has come back from pre-season and he's been the player I thought he could be.
The hosts failed to deal with another Nasri corner shortly after the leveller, despite their considerable height and physical presence, as Edin Dzeko nodded his side in front.
Dutchman Bacuna, who was later awarded man of the match, then whipped an unstoppable free-kick into the top corner, opening his Villa account in spectacular style.
In typical fashion, when sensing their opponent is wounded, Villa went for the kill—something that has been instilled in the players since Lambert's appointment.
The winning goal was somewhat fortuitous as City's central defensive pairing of Vincent Kompany and Matija Nastasic left Brad Guzan's raking pass to each other which allowed for Andreas Weimann to race through on goal. Hart raced off his line in an attempt to foil the striker's effort but could do nothing as the Austrian poked the ball beyond the City custodian and into the back of the net.
It was backs-to-the-wall for Villa during the final quarter of an hour but they held out. Somehow.
All too often last season Lambert's men failed to hold on to a lead—one of a number of criticisms aimed at the Villa boss during a turbulent season—conceding 66 league goals. But there seems to be a new-found sense of resoluteness in the Villa ranks. They now know how to shut out a game when they would have normally crumbled under the pressure and conceded. Villa's 1-0 win over Norwich last weekend was their first clean sheet in 27 games.
Villa's unpredictable nature could still see them struggle at the foot of the Premier League this year, but there is a clear and evident improvement for all to see.
Lady luck was on Villa's side against City. Each of their players stood up to the task and preformed solidly, but Lambert should be the man to take the praise for his side snatching all three points.
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