Manchester City has returned to winning ways in the Premier League after defeating visitors Aston Villa 3-0 at Etihad Stadium to draw the title race three points close to leaders Liverpool.
The England forward Raheem Sterling opened the score line just a minute after the break to cap a fine week of goalscoring after a hat-trick in City’s midweek thrashing of Atalanta.
Villa boss Dean Smith, taking charge of his boyhood club for the 50th time, might have picked up a result had it not been for the swagger with which Sterling is playing this season and he made no mistake when put through at close range just 20 seconds after the restart.
Kevin De Bruyne added a second for Gaurdiola’s side when he curled in a contentious second after 65 minutes, the suspicion of offside dismissed following a lengthy VAR review, and an Ilkay Gundogan strike killed Villa off before Fernandinho blotted a fine performance with a second yellow card.
John Stones allowed John McGinn to force a good one-handed save from Ederson, but City started to dominate possession, and David Silva squandered a golden chance as he sided narrowly on the half-time cusp.
The second half was 20 seconds old when Ederson’s long, high ball forward was knocked down by Gabriel Jesus to Sterling, who slid the ball through Tom Heaton’s legs from six yards out.
Tyrone Mings turned a Jesus effort over the crossbar with his knee moments later to keep Villa in the contest until De Bruyne’s cross-cum-shot bounced within a whisker of David Silva and Sterling, who was offside when the ball was kicked, before beating Heaton into the far corner of the net.
Buoyed by good fortune on the second, Pep Guardiola’s men went for the jugular and bagged a third when Fernandinho and Bernardo Silva took turns at flashing the ball across the face of goal before Gundogan scissor-kicked home his first league goal of the season.
After picking up a yellow card for a foul on Jack Grealish, Fernandinho made a clumsy challenge on Keinan Davis and was sent off, souring an otherwise excellent afternoon for Guardiola who could do without defensive suspensions.
Mings made his second goal-line clearance of the day after Gabriel Jesus’ chip hit the crossbar and Ederson made a fine save to deny Davis at the other end before McGinn hit the post at the death.
The result moves City back to within three points of leaders Liverpool ahead of their clash with Tottenham on Sunday, and buries the memory of a shock home defeat to Wolves on October 6.
It looked like one of those games when City could do everything but score until Sterling was presented with his first clear chance and showed just why he is one of the league’s most feared forwards.
Villa’s plans for the second half were upended when Mings let Jesus win the header that put Sterling through for the opener, and there was no way back for the visitors.
Take these Key Opta Facts
– Manchester City have won their past 10 Premier League home games against Aston Villa by an aggregate score of 33-4. It’s their joint-longest winning run at home versus a single opponent in Premier League history (also 10 versus Newcastle United).
– Pep Guardiola has lost just one of his 20 Premier League matches against newly promoted teams as City manager (W15 D4 L1).
– Raheem Sterling has scored in 43 Premier League games for Manchester City without ever ending on the losing side (W41 D2 L0) – he’s scored in more games for a single club without ever losing than any other player in the competition’s history.
– Sterling has scored 13 goals in 14 appearances in all competitions this season, more than any other Premier League player in 2019-20.
– Fernandinho (3) has been sent off at Etihad stadium more than any other player in the Premier League since it opened in 2003.