Capital loss as City exit cup
A DISMAL rainy night in Manchester was reflected on the pitch by Roberto Mancini’s side as they were dumped out of the Capital One Cup at the first time of asking by Aston Villa at the Etihad Stadium.
City led twice through Mario Balotelli and Aleksandar Kolarov, but that wasn’t enough to see off ‘Lamberts Lions’ as they fought back to pull off a memorable victory.
Gabriel Agbonlahor, who hadn’t yet started a game in the 2012-2013 campaign, was on hand twice for his boyhood club as Villa progressed to the fourth round of the Capital One Cup.
An own goal from former claret and blue captain Gareth Barry and an extra-time tap in from Charles N’Zogbia sealed the win and capped a superb performance by the midlanders.
Villa started the brighter of the two sides, Christian Benteke getting the slightest of touches from four yards to see his attempt go wide in the opening ten minutes.
The Belgium international again tried to break the deadlock with an ambitious shot that went well over into the home crowd. But despite the visitors’ dominance, City took the lead against the run of play, in their first real attempt at goal.
An unmarked Balotelli slipped through the opponent’s offside trap to meet a great delivery from former Villa man, James Milner. The Italian was never going to miss from close range, as he controlled the ball well to smash it past reinstated keeper Shay Given and give the home side a lead at half time.
After the break, Villa were soon level through Barry’s own goal. Andreas Weimann had his cross parried by Costel Pantilimon, only for it to be knocked back into the goal by the midfielder who left Villa Park three years ago.
City came back strongly and were back in the lead within five minutes through a trademark Kolarov free-kick. Ron Vlaar had brought down Balotelli 25 yards from goal, earning him a yellow card to which Kolarov then converted from the set piece to put City back in front.
The blue moon seemed to have risen for the rest of the second half as Mancini’s players took control of the game, which was largely played in their opponents half.
But, admirably, Villa kept going right to the end and the hard work paid off as Agbonlahor linked up well with strike partner Benteke to grab a second equaliser for Villa with 20 minutes left to play.
Tevez and Balotelli came within inches of
reinstating City’s lead. Balotelli’s
header was tipped over by a
finger-tip save while Tevez’s free-kick hit the edge of the crossbar
in the closing minutes.
In keeping with fiery events on the pitch at times, there was also a heated discussion on the touchline. A rough tackle by left-back Joe Bennett on Barry led to Mancini arguing with his counterpart Paul Lambert. The lack of a yellow card frustrated Mancini even more as the tie was taken into extra-time.
Encouraging words from Lambert at the short interval paid dividends for his young side. Just minutes into extra-time N’Zogbia put Villa in front for the first time. Another parried shot from Pantilimon left N’Zogbia to tap into an empty net.
With the Manchester side trying hard to get back into the game, gaps were left in the City defence. This led to Agbonlahor getting his second goal of the game in an individual build up. A deflected shot helped the ball bypass the Romanian keeper to seal victory for Villa.
A well deserved win from the visitors will give them confidence for the weekend derby meeting against West Brom. City, on the other hand, will be looking for a response against Fulham at Craven Cottage. The return of some key players to the starting XI is to be expected as Mancini will want his side to bounce back to the side they were last season.
MAN CITY: Pantilimon 3, Nastasic 6, K Toure 6, Lescott 6, Barry 6, Kolarov 7, Milner 6, Razak 6, Suarez 5, Tevez 5, Balotelli 6. Subs: Sinclair (Suarez 62) 5, Dzeko (Lescott 74) 5, Helan (Razak 105) 5. Not used: Wright, Zabaleta, Scapuzzi, Evans.
Booked: Tevez, Razak, Toure, Kolarov.
ASTON VILLA: Given 7, Lowton 6, Vlaar 7, Clark 6, Bennett 5, Delph 7, El Ahmadi 6, N'Zogbia 7, Weimann 6, Agbonlahor 8, Benteke 6. Subs: Albrighton (Weimann 66) 6, Herd (El Ahmadi 72) 5, Lichaj (Bennett 86) 5. Not used: Guzan, Bent, Bannan, Baker.
Booked: Delph, Vlaar, Albrighton, N’Zogbia.
Quays News Man of The Match: Gabriel Agbonlahor – scoring two goals, he also assisted the third. The striker lead the line well and was the most creative player on the pitch.
By Liam McCallion
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