1-0 (Carew 47), 2-1 (Agbonlahor 67), 3-1 (Agbonlahor 74), 4-1 (Agbonlahor 75)
1-1 (Elano pen 64), 4-2 (Corluka 89)
- Match reports
- Sun 17 Aug 2008, 6:00PM
- Posted by Tim Oscroft
Pre match news
Good afternoon from Villa Park. Both City & the hosts have already seen competitive action over the last few weeks, but this is where the meat & drink of the English season begins. The Blues have a good record at this ground in recent years, having last lost here in August 2002. Recent memories recall Richards’ dramatic last-minute equaliser in the FA Cup and Sylvain Distin’s amazing solo run that led to a rare goal for the Frenchman.
There’s no Richard Dunne, the skipper being suspended after his dismissal against ‘Boro in May. Richards & Ben Haim form a new defensive partnership, and Garrido returns to left back. City are also without Vassell, Jo and Benjani up front, so Valeri Bojinov starts for the first time since the home derby nearly a year ago. Kelvin Etuhu is back for his first game for City since going on loan to Leicester in March.
Martin O'Neill hands debuts to Nicky Shorey and Brad Friedel.
The pre-match warm-up brought bad news with the sight of Valeri Bojinov being carried off by two of the coaching staff after sustaining an Achilles injury, Ched Evans being drafted in at almost literally the last minute to make his first start for City in the league.
Martin Petrov’s early corner was swung over towards Elano on the edge of the box, but the Brazilian, backing away to take a shot, collided with referee Phil Dowd, who was watching the ball as it floated over. At the other end, John Carew went close with a glancing header from a Villa corner. The imposing Norwegian had a better chance on 10 minutes at another corner, but this time his header went straight at Joe Hart.
There were encouraging signs from Kelvin Etuhu, the youngster breaking into the box on 20 minutes and squaring the ball across the face of goal, sadly Ched Evans was some way behind it but it was our best opening so far.
Gareth Barry, still getting a mixed reception from his own fans due to his ongoing (it seems) transfer saga, spurned a great chance on 26 minutes. Reo-Coker got past Garrido and crossed, but the England midfielder’s volley from a tight angle bounced just wide of the near post. Three minutes later City broke upfield at great pace, Petrov exchanging passes on the edge of the box and drilling a low shot straight at Brad Friedel.
Ched Evans was leading the line well, taking his late call-up into consideration, the young Welsh international not too far away from a Petrov through ball on 36 minutes. Two minutes later he connected to Corluka’s cross inside the area, but the ball looped over Friedel’s bar.
Micah Richards, City captain today, saved the day on 42 minutes, showing superb athleticism to stretch a leg high into the air to prevent Agbonlahor from getting a touch to a Barry cross inside the six-yard box.
A nice move in stoppage time saw Friedel palm over a teasing cross from Etuhu, but the resulting corner came to nothing.
But City’s solid showing before the break was undone within two minutes of the restart. Fernandes gave the ball away in his own half, the ball was swiftly moved out to Ashley Young on the left and his cross was nodded in at the far post by John Carew.
The Blues came back strongly, and City’s fans thought we had the equaliser on 52 minutes – but Martin Petrov’s volley hit the side-netting, the angle from the away fans enclosure making it appear that the Bulgarian had scored.
City restored parity on 64 minutes from the penalty spot after Michael Johnson had been bundled over by Luke Young inside the area. After a considerable delay while Villa protested, Elano stepped up and ignoring the din he calmly sent Friedel the wrong way and placed the ball into the bottom left-hand corner.
The goal galvanised City, with Etuhu nearly getting a shot in from another swift attack, but the lead was only to last four minutes. A Villa corner was headed back across goal by Curtis Davies, and Gabriel Agbonlahor whipped in a first-time volley from close range that Joe Hart had no chance of stopping.
The home side were now in the ascendant, and they extended their lead on 72 minutes. Gareth Barry broke down the left flank, crossed and it was that man Gabriel Agbonlahor once again to headed powerfully past Hart.
It was all Villa now, and Agbonlahor made a great day for him even better, and made things even worse for City, when he completed his hat-trick just 60 seconds later. Barry was the provider once more and the England Under 21 international curled the ball past Hart after racing into the City box.
Mark Hughes brought Ireland and Sturridge on with 10 minutes left, and both men got shots in as City tried to reduce the arrears, the latter’s bringing a good save out of Friedel. The young striker weaved his way into the box with a minute left and forced a corner, which eventually fell for Vedran Corluka to roll the ball home from inside the six yard box, the Croatian’s first goal for City.
City had not given up, worrying the home defence in stoppage time, but it was not enough and the scoreline on the opening day of the season finished at 4-2 to Aston Villa.