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Man City 2-0 Aston Villa

By Ian Hughes

Elano (right) is congratulated after scoring
Elano (right) struck the winner from the penalty spot

Elano's first-half penalty and a smart strike from Shaun Wright-Phillips gave Manchester City victory and dented Aston Villa's Champions League hopes.

Brazilian Elano slotted home after Wright-Phillips had been upended by James Milner's clumsy challenge.

Earlier, Wright-Phillips had toe-poked a shot inches wide.

Gareth Barry's volley was superbly saved by Shay Given as Villa improved, but Wright-Phillips curled in after an excellent one-two with Stephen Ireland.

The defeat is another blow for Villa, who are now only three points clear of fifth-placed Arsenal - their rivals for the last Champions League spot.

We're still up to the task - O'Neill

Villa boss Martin O'Neill had selected an unchanged side from the one which was pegged back by Stoke in their 2-2 draw at the weekend and he was looking for a reaction.

But it was immediately clear that the visitors had not shaken off the effects of that disappointment - or recharged their batteries.

City, even without Robinho in attack, took advantage from the outset - particularly through Wright-Phillips.

The winger was a menace down the flanks, and also when he darted through the middle and he should have scored when put through by Ireland, but he shot narrowly past the post.

But soon after, the diminutive winger was brought down by Milner, and Elano - back in the starting line-up for the first time in five games - made no mistake from the penalty spot.

606: DEBATE
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City were dominating at that stage but were kept out by some last-ditch defending from Villa.

On the stroke of half-time, Ireland was inches away from converting Wright-Phillips' low cross.

The pattern of play changed a little after the break as Villa began to chase the game.

Ashley Young had a shot deflected over before Barry struck a sweet volley from the left hand-side of the box that had Given scrambling to tip around the post.

At the other end, Elano was denied a second when Villa keeper Friedel pulled off a magnificent save to push his volley from the edge of the box round the post.

Hughes delighted with City adaptability

But City were not be denied another goal and they got it thanks to some brilliant play between Ireland and Wright-Phillips.

The pair exchanged passes on the edge of the box before Wright-Phillips curled the ball into the bottom corner.

That wrapped up the points and brought to an end Villa's run of seven successive away wins in the league.


Manchester City manager Mark Hughes:
"Our performance was excellent - certainly in the first half when we were technically very good, and we created numerous chances.

"We should maybe have been out of sight after the first half.

"But in the second half we showed another side to us and we were resolute and hard to beat.

"It was probably the best we have played."

Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill:
"We didn't play well enough in the first half. We just did not get to grips with the game early on.

"We came out with determination and we had plenty of the ball in the second half. We were camped around their area but we couldn't break through.

"It is disappointing but we are still in the fight. It has been a bad few days - but that cannot be helped now."


BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match : Man City's Stephen Ireland with 7.78 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.



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see also
Premier League as it happened
04 Mar 09 |  Premier League
Wednesday's football photos
04 Mar 09 |  Football


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