Manchester City recovered from conceding a very early goal to win 2-1 at Aston Villa on Wednesday and move a step closer to the Premier League title after a game in which both sides finished with 10 men.
The win comes a day after City decided to pull out of the proposed Super League amid a wave of backlash and criticism over the ill-fated project that was initially backed by 12 of Europe’s most prominent clubs, including six from the Premier League.
City, who are 11 points ahead of Manchester United with five games left, were caught napping early when Villa took a quick free kick. A pass from Ollie Watkins found John McGinn and he rifled the ball home with 20 seconds on the clock.
City equalised in the 22nd minute after goalkeeper Ederson’s long raking ball prompted a slick passing move that Phil Foden finished from the middle of the penalty area.
Displaying superb skill and close control, Foden was instrumental in City’s second goal, winning a corner that led to Rodri heading home to give them the lead in the 40th minute.
The home side was thrown a lifeline minutes later when referee Peter Bankes upgraded a yellow card for City defender John Stones to red after reviewing video footage of his dangerous challenge on Jacob Ramsey before the break.
However, that advantage was cancelled out early in the second half when Villa’s Matthew Cash was sent off after picking up two yellow cards in quick succession.
Set to face Tottenham Hotspur in the Carabao Cup final on Sunday, City took their foot off the gas but were still able to control the rest of the game and close out a win that took them 11 points clear of second-placed Manchester United at the top of the table.
City captain Fernandinho praised Foden for his performance.
“He’s showed his quality, no doubt about that. He’s matured, chooses better actions, scored today and he’s been awesome, so pleased and happy for him because he’s a nice boy and deserves the best,” he told Sky Sports.
Villa stayed 11th in the standings.
“The disappointing part for me is the manner of the goals,” said manager Dean Smith. “Matty Cash’s first yellow was harsh but second one was just stupid and reckless, with them having 10 men you won’t get a better chance to beat City.”
When asked about the Super League aftermath, City manager Pep Guardiola said: “It’s a chapter which is over, a closed chapter. They [the owners] don’t need to apologise [to me], I know them, I know how they are.”
Fernandinho added: “It’s been crazy since Saturday [after the Chelsea defeat in the FA Cup semifinals]. Guys were a bit down, and then on Monday the Super League comes out and we were surprised.
“We didn’t expect it, but eventually they had good sense and it was the right thing to do. Everyone who loves football didn’t support the Super League, including our players, so we’re happy now that it’s turned around, but it was a surprise.”