By William Wood | In Match Reports - Home Games
Manchester City kept alive their hopes of Champions League qualification as they fought back from a goal down to beat Aston Villa 3-1 at the City of Manchester Stadium.
Both Roberto Mancini and Martin O’Neill guided their sides into the clash aware that their side needed to win to keep apace with Tottenham Hotspur, the current occupiers of the coveted fourth spot in the Premier League.
Micah was named among the substitutes as he continued his return from injury, whilst the visitors lined up with their familiar XI.
A muted start to the game ensued with both teams clearly aware of how much was at stake, and Argentina international Carlos Tevez saw his early effort blocked by James Milner.
Brad Friedel made a superb save minutes later as Craig Bellamy’s cross deflected off Carlos Cuellar, and with City pressing for an opener Villa grabbed the lead completely against the run of play.
Stewart Downing released John Carew and the powerful forward retained his composure to slot the ball under Martin Fulop and prompt wild celebrations from O’Neill.
Downing then almost scored one of his own with a cutting drive that had Fulop beaten only for the ball to swing wide, though City were soon level and deservedly so after Adam Johnson was brought down in the box.
Tevez, who had a penalty appeal of his own turned down moments before, powered the ball home to make it 1-1, though Carew’s thumping strike straight after the restart rebounded off the crossbar to remind City of the threat the visitors posed.
With the game fast approaching half-time, Mancini’s men completed a quick-fire turnaround as Johnson picked out Emmanuel Adebayor six yards from goal, and the Togo striker generated enough power for the ball to evade Friedel’s clutches and go in.
The away side were understandably shell-shocked, and with their confidence shot to pieces they struggled to regain their footing when the game recommended for the second-half.
In contrast, City were beginning to find rhythm in the middle of the park, and Pablo Zabaleta almost fluked a third as his shot deflected goal-wards only for it to swirl over the bar.
Bellamy was next in line to probe the Villa defence, cutting in from the left and curling a shot towards the far post only for Friedel to palm the ball away.
But the Welshman was not to be denied with a minute of normal time remaining, Shaun Wright-Phillips picking out his teammate and the diminutive forward doing the rest to seal an attractive, if not comfortable, win.
As such, Villa’s own Champions League aspirations were extinguished, whilst City go in to their final home fixture of the season with fourth-place rivals Spurs knowing that a win would send them into Europe’s elite competition.
Man City: Tevez (41’ -pen) Adebayor (43’) Bellamy (89’)
Aston Villa: Carew (16’)
Man City: Fulop, Zabaleta, Toure, Kompany, Bridge, Adam Johnson, De Jong, Vieira, Bellamy, Adebayor, Tevez. Subs: Nielsen, Richards, Onuoha, Wright-Phillips, Santa Cruz, Garrido, Sylvinho.
Aston Villa: Friedel, Cuellar, Collins, Dunne, Warnock, Downing, Petrov, Milner, Ashley Young, Carew, Agbonlahor. Subs: Guzan, Luke Young, Sidwell, Delfouneso, Heskey, Reo-Coker, Beye.