MANCHESTER, England (AP) - Bernardo Silva finally broke Aston Villa’s resistance by scoring off Manchester City’s 36th effort at goal before Ilkay Gundogan’s penalty sealed a 2-0 victory on Wednesday that extended the winning run of the Premier League’s form team to six matches.
An end-to-end match in which City lost Kevin De Bruyne and Kyle Walker to injuries looked to be heading for a draw, despite the home team’s dominance, when Silva received a pass from Rodri and smashed home a shot from the edge of the area in the 79th minute.
The goal was contentious because Rodri was returning from an offside position when he dispossessed Villa defender Tyrone Mings before releasing Silva. No offside was given, though, with the officials seemingly feeling a new phase of play had started when Mings controlled the ball on his chest before being picked off by Rodri.
Villa manager Dean Smith was sent off for protesting against the awarding of a goal he described as “farcical” and “pathetic.”
“I said to the fourth official, David Coote, ‘Did you get juggling balls for Christmas?’” Smith said, explaining when he was shown a red card by referee Jonathan Moss. “I don’t think any other manager would get sent off for that.”
Gundogan wrapped up the win in the 90th minute by converting a spot kick after Matty Cash raised his hand to block a goalbound header from Gabriel Jesus.
City moved above Leicester to the top of the league, although Manchester United can reclaim first place by beating Fulham later Wednesday.
It was Villa’s first league match since Jan. 1, after which there was a coronavirus outbreak in the squad that led to the training ground being closed. Villa reported that nine players contracted COVID-19 in that period but Smith was able to field a full-strength lineup against City, with the squad only back in training since Sunday.
Villa, however, was on the back foot for the entire match, which was played in driving rain, only holding on thanks to a series of last-ditch blocks and some fine goalkeeping from Emi Martinez.
City is in its best form of the season, having won nine straight games in all competitions. Pep Guardiola’s team in unbeaten in 15.
“No one else has won five, six in a row but it’s still the first leg of the season,” Guardiola said. “A lot of games to do but the important thing is that the feeling is good.”
Walker was substituted with an apparent leg muscle injury in the 27th minute, while De Bruyne hobbled off in the 59th shortly after being fouled by Jack Grealish.
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