Manchester City kept their slim hopes of catching Manchester United alive, as the beat Aston Villa 1-0 at Villa Park. A defensive error from Ciaran Clark gifted City the elusive goal in an otherwise poor game of football.
Out of sorts Aston Villa began the game brightly – and looked the more likely of the two to open the scoring in the first 20 minutes. Their inexperience still showed, as they struggled to muster any real clear-cut chances despite having a decent hold on the game.
City looked to be lacking zip and creativity as Aston Villa was first to every ball. The likes of David Silva, Yaya Toure and Carols Tevez struggled to make an impact as lowly Villa attempted to lay siege on Joe Hart.
Things looked to be getting worse for the reigning champions, when Jack Rodwell limped off injured in the 24th minute. However, it seemed to spring City into life as they gained more possession and began to attack the opponent’s net.
With City looking more confident, James Milner tested Brad Guzan, before Pablo Zabaleta rattled the post as the game looked to be swinging in the favour of Mancini’s side.
Disaster then struck right on half-time. Ciaran Clark dwelled on the ball, allowing Edin Dzeko to pick out team-mate Carlos Tevez, who rounded Brad Guzan with ease and slotted the ball home.
It knocked the stuffing out of Villa and they never truly recovered.
Matt Lowton’s curling effort from 35-yards fizzled agonisingly past the post – but it wasn’t enough, as Aston Villa’s woes continue in the Premier League.
The infamous minute’s applause on the 19th minute in homage to Stillian Petrov was sadly the only bright spot in another dismal night for Paul Lambert’s side.
Manchester City will now hope to win the remainder of their games, in order to have any chance of catching rivals Manchester United.
Thomas Bradley, football correspondent