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Fantastic Foden hat-trick fires Man City to win over Villa

Phil Foden scored a sensational hat-trick as Manchester City beat Aston Villa 4-1 at the Etihad Stadium to keep the pressure on their title rivals.

Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne dropped to the bench for the Premier League champions but it was no impediment. Rodri opening the scoring early on and though Jhon Duran equalised it was the Foden show thereafter as he took the game away from Villa.

A free-kick late in the first half, a sweeping finish just after the hour and a rocket shot from the edge of the box, it was masterful as he moved past 20 goals for the campaign with his second hat-trick of the season. No Haaland and no problem for Pep Guardiola.

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Man City: Ortega (7), Lewis (8), Akanji (6), Dias (6), Gvardiol (6), Rodri (9), Bernardo (7), Foden (10), Doku (7), Alvarez (7), Grealish (7).

Subs used: Kovacic (6), Nunes (6), Bobb (6), Gomez (6).

Aston Villa: Olsen (6), Konsa (6), Diego Carlos (6), Lenglet (6), Digne (5), Iroegbunam (6), Douglas Luiz (5), Rogers (6), Diaby (6), Duran (6), Zaniolo (6).

Subs used: Tielemans (6), Chambers (5), Bailey (6), Moreno (6), Kellyman (6).

Player of the match: Phil Foden.

With Arsenal winning against Luton, the result was not enough to take City to the top of the Premier League table but they did move level on points with second-placed Liverpool overnight. Villa remain fourth, two points clear of Tottenham, but now having played an extra game.

How Foden took the game away from Villa

The inclusion of Jeremy Doku and Jack Grealish, making his first Premier League start of 2024, freed up Foden to occupy a more central role and it was from there that the England midfielder crafted City’s opening goal early on. It was to be just the start.

Foden fed Doku down the right channel and the flying winger cut the ball back for Rodri to beat Robin Olsen in the Villa goal. The Swedish stopper was deputising for Emiliano Martinez, who went down ill just before kick-off. There was little he could do.

Team news headlines

  • Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne dropped to the bench as Jack Grealish made his first Premier League start of 2024.
  • Unai Emery went with Tim Iroegbunam in midfield while Emiliano Martinez was replaced by Robin Olsen just before kick-off.

The expectation at that point was that this might be a routine evening for City against a depleted Villa side that included only four of the same starting line-up that had outplayed the reigning Premier League champions at Villa Park in December.

But a slick counter-attack changed the mood. Duran played a clever one-two with Morgan Rogers before tucking the ball away inside the far post to stun the home support. Those were worrying moments for Guardiola as Villa threatened on the break.

Phil Foden celebrates scoring his second, City's third, goal of the game
Image: Phil Foden was in superb form as he carried Manchester City to victory over Aston Villa

But there was a tempo to their attacking play at the other end, the movement of Julian Alvarez offering something different to Haaland. The Argentina international almost scored only for Olsen to save with his feet but City did not have to wait long.

Foden’s free-kick after a fine run by Grealish restored the lead but Unai Emery will not be happy with the way that Nicolo Zaniolo broke from the wall, allowing the ball to arrow past him and leave the goalkeeper helpless to prevent it nestling in the back of the net.

Phil Foden's performance for Manchester City against Aston Villa
Image: Phil Foden’s performance for Manchester City against Aston Villa in numbers

There were a couple of awkward moments for City in the second half as Stefan Ortega produced good stops to keep out Douglas Luiz and Clement Lenglet but it was Foden’s night. He found the corner just after the hour when set up by Rodri to ease any tensions.

And he was not done, latching onto a loose ball on the edge of the Villa box and blasting the ball past Olsen. De Bruyne is still in Manchester but this season there is a clear shift in influence. It is Foden running things for City now. He could yet take them to another title.

What’s next?

Man City are back in action on Saturday, travelling to Crystal Palace in the Premier League; kick-off 12.30pm.

Aston Villa play again on Saturday in the Premier League, taking on Brentford; kick-off 3pm.

Sky News
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