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Aston Villa vs Manchester City: Three things we learned

Aston Villa gave Manchester City a run for their money in Birmingham, but first-half goals from Ruben Dias and Bernardo Silva were ultimately enough to earn all three points for the defending champions.

Aston Villa vs Manchester City: The defending Premier League champions raced out to a comfortable halftime lead and held for a tricky 2-1 victory at Villa Park on Wednesday.

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The victory keeps Manchester City (32 points) just one point and place back of Chelsea, who also won on Wednesday, in the Premier League table. For Aston Villa, it’s the first defeat under new manager Steven Gerrard, though they remain 13th in the table.

Jack Grealish made a brief return to Villa Park as an 87th-minute substitute.

Aston Villa vs Manchester City final score, stats, results

Final score: Aston Villa 1, Manchester City 2

Goal scorers: Aston Villa (Watkins 47'), Manchester City (Dias 27', Silva 43')

Shots: Aston Villa 9, Manchester City 17

Shots on target: Aston Villa 3, Manchester City 7

Possession: Aston Villa 36%, Manchester City 64%

3 things we learned - Aston Villa vs Manchester City

1. When they look like Barcelona: Every few games, Manchester City will do something — it can be as small as a single passage of play, or as large as a suffocatingly dominant possession performance where you ask yourself, half-seriously, “Have they perfected football?” — to trick you into thinking you’re watching Guardiola’s peak Barcelona side from early last decade. There’s an effortlessness to the way they operate, when they’re in full flow, it’s a sight to be hold. Anyway, one of those flash-in-the-pan moments occurred on Wednesday.

2. Aston Villa a different side after halftime: It’s become quite clear, quite quickly, that Gerrard has plenty about him to become a fantastic manager. Aston Villa were defensively dominant in his first two games, and though they conceded a pair of first-half goals to a very good side on Wednesday, Gerrard sent them back out for the second half with very different ideas and a newfound motivation that wasn’t lacking, per se, in the first half, but the extra edge was certainly noticeable. They got a goal within two minutes and put a few more scares into Guardiola’s side than he would have liked. Aston Villa fans (and Liverpool fans), be excited.

3. Title race to take form in next 7 games: As discussed here, Liverpool have a relatively straightforward next six Premier League fixtures, before facing leaders Chelsea on Jan. 2. Similarly, Manchester City should be dropping many, if any, points over their next seven games, which leads them to their own clash with the Blues (Jan. 15). Watford away, Wolves home, Leeds home, Newcastle away, Leicester home and Brentford away. There’s a good chance those three sides are separated by one or two points before six-pointers commence.

Man of the Match: Ruben Dias - Scored the opening goal and continues to prove he’s one of, if not, the best defenders in the Premier League.

Aston Villa vs Manchester City highlights

Ruben Dias hammers Man City opener past Emiliano Martinez (goal video)

Raheem Sterling sprinted toward the end line and cut the ball back, out of the 18-yard box, for Dias, who was arriving a bit late but with full force and momentum.

Bernardo Silva smashes sensational volley for 2-0 (goal video)

Goal of the Season nominee (above video). The finish speaks for itself, but the ball from Gabriel Jesus and the ease with which Manchester City played out of trouble and transitioned from one end to the other… it’s unfair when they play like that.

[ VIDEO: PL highlights ]

Ollie Watkins pulls Aston Villa back to 2-1 just after halftime (goal video)

Douglas Luiz’s corner kick was low and well short of the near post, but Watkins had the perfect plan for such an unlikely scoring opportunity.

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