Bailey Blast Earns Draw As Man City Drop Point At Villa Park

Bailey celebrates after scoring the equaliser
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Aston Villa may have been unable to halt Erling Haaland but Steven Gerrard’s side prevented the striker from running riot and Manchester City taking victory. Stopping Haaland was a daunting prospect in itself but, given the way City have eviscerated opponents of late, this represented an impressive retort by Villa, who levelled through Leon Bailey’s wonderful first-time finish.

When Haaland struck his 10th goal in six games five minutes into the second half it seemed City would deepen the misery on Gerrard but Villa roused to claim a point. In the end it was Pep Guardiola, in khaki cargo trousers and white trainers, who was left tutting on the touchline in frustration.

In fairness City should have been out of sight. Haaland was twice repelled by the Villa goalkeeper, Emi Martínez, Ilkay Gündogan failed to latch on to Kevin De Bruyne’s wicked cross from the right and the Belgian later flighted a crisp free-kick that dipped on to the crossbar after Tyrone Mings tripped Haaland on the edge of the D as the striker waded towards goal.

City passed up two more chances in the final throes. First Rodri sent a shot whistling past a post and then a minute later the substitute Riyad Mahrez drilled painfully wide. But Villa felt aggrieved that Philippe Coutinho had a possible winning goal chalked off because the referee, Simon Hooper, blew his whistle after spying that the assistant referee, Adrian Holmes, had flagged for offside. Many of City’s players had stopped by the time the ball beat Ederson.

Haaland started this game with aspirations of becoming the first player in 76 years to score a hat-trick in a third successive top-flight game but for a long time City failed to feed the Haaland machine. With four minutes gone Kyle Walker skated forward on the overlap but blazed a shot over instead of squaring to Haaland who was lurking to his left.

It seemed a foolish decision given six of Haaland’s nine goals before kickoff had come from inside the six-yard box. Walker raised the palms of his hands in regret. Haaland’s eventual goal here made it seven tap-ins. Another apology soon came Haaland’s way when the returning De Bruyne, who replaced Julian Álvarez in City’s only change, overcooked a through-ball that gave the City striker no chance. Haaland finished the first half with 10 touches to his name.

Regardless, City were cruising, hogging possession and, when Ollie Watkins was able to hold the ball up and win a foul for Villa, it seemed a cause for celebration. It was a generally demoralising existence for Villa until seven minutes before half-time when Ashley Young, who replaced the injured Matty Cash at right-back, came out on top in a tussle with De Bruyne as City looked to canter upfield on the counter.

Young extinguished the danger and located Douglas Luiz, the subject of three deadline-day bids from Arsenal, who slipped Watkins through behind John Stones. Watkins did a couple of step-overs and sent a low diagonal shot at goal that Stones was able to deflect wide for a corner. Just as it seemed Villa had worked out how to stifle City, labelled a superpower by Gerrard, they were guilty of presenting the sharpest shooter in world football with the most routine of finishes.

Haaland’s goal was simple. He was left unmarked to nudge a hanging De Bruyne cross into the net five minutes into the second half. Bernardo Silva and De Bruyne exchanged passes down the right and the latter sent a looping cross in from that quarter. The ball sailed over Martínez and Ezri Konsa, too, got caught under the ball and Haaland simply side-footed in at the back post.

City should have put the game to bed but, when Bailey equalised, they could not argue they had not been warned. Before the hour Watkins played in Jacob Ramsey who, but for his slightly heavy touch and the alertness of Ederson who rushed to nick the ball, could have scored. Bailey skewed wide on the half-volley soon after and then, with 74 minutes on the clock, he levelled. Ramsey shuffled down the left and centred for the former Bayer Leverkusen winger to sweep the ball home into the corner.

Even when things went wrong for City Haaland would emerge from the rubble. De Bruyne lashed an effort at goal that crashed into the Norwegian’s backside but seconds after the striker was cussing himself for getting in the way, he came alive as a triangle of Villa shirts went to sleep.

Haaland controlled the ball and deftly flicked it into the path of De Bruyne, who poked a shot narrowly wide. “It is going to be fascinating how it works out because even when he is not right at it or got the accelerator right down, he’s still a big threat,” Gerrard said of Haaland.

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