Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Match Report:Manchester City 4 Aston Villa 0


Mario Balotelli scored a hat-trick as Manchester City moved to the top of the Premier League table with an emphatic victory over out-of-form Aston Villa.
Balotelli struck from the penalty spot after Eric Lichaj had fouled him before Joleon Lescott headed in City's second.
Balotelli tapped in a rebound before scoring with a second spot-kick after Marc Albrighton tripped Adam Johnson.
City will slip back to second if rivals Manchester United avoid defeat at Birmingham in Tuesday's late game.
But, nonetheless, it is proving to be a happy Christmas for City, who won comfortably at Newcastle on Boxing Day and increasingly look like serious title contenders.
Perhaps, most pleasing of all for manager Roberto Mancini was the hat-trick by former Inter Milan forward Balotelli, who has reportedly been feeling homesick.
The 20-year-old Italian had only mustered two Premier League goals prior to Tuesday's contest but he showed that he can provide a potent alternative to Carlos Tevez, who was on the bench as he rested a sore hamstring, in the lone striker role.
Mancini's team have lost only one of their last 10 league matches and can look forward to their home fixture against Blackpool on New Year's Day with confidence.
However, the problems continue to mount for Aston Villa boss Gerard Houllier, whose team have won only two of their last 13 Premier League matches.
Their next fixture is against Chelsea, another out-of-form side, at Stamford Bridge on 2 January.
Villa were always struggling after City scored twice in the opening 13 minutes.
Balotelli had not previously scored at Eastlands but found the net after only eight minutes with a clever penalty after he had been clumsily dragged to the ground by Lichaj. The Italian paused in his approach to the ball and waited for Villa goalkeeper Brad Friedel to commit himself before slotting home.
The return of Balotelli was one of five changes to the City side and it was Lescott, another of the recalled players, who struck next.
The defender climbed majestically at the near post to convert Johnson's corner. Barry Bannan made a valiant effort to head the ball clear but it was adjudged to have crossed the line.
David Silva was in sparkling form, orchestrating play in front of the Villa defence, and the Spaniard dazzled the opposition defence with a weaving run into their penalty area.
His subsequent low curling strike was parried by Friedel but the American was powerless to prevent Balotelli slotting home from inside the six-yard box.
Silva went close again before the break after collecting a square pass from Johnson but his strike took a wicked deflection and narrowly missed the goal with Friedel stranded.
There had been precious little encouragement for Houllier as he watched from the sidelines but his team did come close to a goal before the interval.
City keeper Joe Hart did well to parry a strike from Albrighton and Lescott made a brilliant last-ditch clearance to prevent Nigel Reo-Coker converting the rebound.
The visitors looked bright at the start of the second half but any faint hopes of a sensational comeback were ended abruptly when Albrighton clumsily fouled Johnson and Balotelli completed his hat-trick with another superb penalty
Houllier tried to inject fresh impetus by bringing on Fabian Delph and Nathan Delfouneso but it was the home side who continued to look the most dangerous.
City substitute Jo should have converted a flick-on from the imperious Vincent Kompany but he shot wastefully wide from six yards.
Villa did have one final chance late in the contest but Hart saved Lichaj's crisp strike superbly.

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