Aston Villa battled in vain at the Etihad but Man City won it with just over 10 minutes to go thanks to Bernardo Silva and, in stoppage time, Ilkay Gundogan. On a soaking-wet night in Manchester, Villa’s first-team defended for their lives on their return to match action for the first time since New Year’s Day. Head coach Dean Smith, who was sent off following Silva’s strike, drafted Ross Barkley back into his team prior to kick-off following the loan ace’s return to fitness after 60 days away.
At the Etihad, though, it was City who started the brighter and Emi Martinez was forced into a stunning save to deny Silva at the far post. The Argentinian sprung into life to block Silva’s strike from just two yards out.
Villa was galvanised by that stop and should have opened the scoring following a three-on-two attack in their favour. It was Barkley who was wasteful, though, as his pass towards Jack Grealish was gobbled up. The 27-year-old screamed in annoyance.