Thursday 18 January 2018

Livid Pellegrini reads shellshocked City stars the riot act following dismal Villa Park collapse

Aston Villa 3 Manchester City 2

Aston Villa player Andreas Weimann takes the applause of the Holte end after scoring the third Villa goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Manchester City at Villa Park
Aston Villa player Andreas Weimann takes the applause of the Holte end after scoring the third Villa goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Manchester City at Villa Park

John Percy

Manchester City will head into their daunting Champions League tie with holders Bayern Munich on Wednesday after experiencing the hairdryer treatment from Manuel Pellegrini.

City's players were subjected to a fierce dressing-room inquest after their remarkable defeat at Aston Villa, with Pellegrini understood to have unleashed his anger for the first time since his appointment in June.

Pellegrini tore into his squad after the throwaway loss which leaves them still waiting for their first Premier League away win of the season. He made it clear that the level of performance seen would not be tolerated again.

The City squad shuffled out of Villa Park without uttering a word, with many of them including captain Vincent Kompany clearly shellshocked by the Chilean's reaction.

Pellegrini was thought to have been the antithesis of his predecessor Roberto Mancini, who frequently confronted his players after games, but the defeat at Villa provoked a withering attack ahead of a crucial week.

Pellegrini will now attempt to pick up his players for the visit of Bayern with City seeking their first home victory in the competition since December 2011, a 2-0 win against the German club.

"I don't think the result (at Villa) will have an impact," the City manager said. "We know it is a different competition, we know that we must turn the page and think about the Champions League. The team played a good match on Saturday, but we had to revise a lot of things.

"Of course the team are shocked. This is not a good moment, but they are professionals and we know how to raise our head again. We will have to defend better always, not only on Wednesday, but we will try to win (against Bayern)."

When asked if City, who had been irresistible when thumping Manchester United the previous weekend, were more motivated against bigger clubs, he replied: "If you only analyse the results of course, but I don't think it is about how the team thinks or feels.

"We tried to play exactly the same against the biggest teams or any other team."

There is clearly a weight to the argument, however, as taking only one point from away games at Cardiff, Stoke and Villa does not suggest they will be title contenders without rapid improvement.

Against United, they were defensively strong and ruthless in attack, but at Villa the back four appeared brittle and hesitant, while question marks will surface again over the performance of England goalkeeper Joe Hart, particularly with regard to his role in the winning goal.

City had the cigars out in the first half here, but failed to make their dominance count, with only Yaya Toure's scuffed finish to show for the opening 45 minutes.

Karim El Ahmadi drew Villa level, though he appeared offside, and although Edin Dzeko headed City ahead, a sublime free-kick from Leandro Bacuna and a 75th-minute effort from Andreas Weimann secured a stirring victory for Paul Lambert's evolving team.

Kompany did speak to the official website after the game and has demanded a reaction when Pep Guardiola's squad arrive in Manchester.

He said: "We have lost games before, every team in the world has lost games, it is about the reaction and what you do in the next game.

"If anything, we'll be more motivated to put it right. We have to pick ourselves up and make sure in the next game we don't make any mistakes. We could have had five or six goals against Villa. It is not many times that you will have three chances against you and they get three goals."

This was undoubtedly one of Lambert's finest results and all the more vital as it was achieved without their talisman Christian Benteke. The Belgian international will miss at least the next three weeks with a hip injury, but the fact this was Lambert's first Premier League win without him underlined his importance.

Nobody could have predicted this victory, their first at home this season, at half-time but Lambert will travel to Hull City next weekend in confident mood. Villa defender Ron Vlaar said: "When people can't stop talking about – 'you can't win a home game' – it was great to win one like this. The spirit was really good, we put a lot of energy into it and came back twice from a goal behind, even without Christian.

"Everybody knows how important he is for the team, but we showed against Manchester City we have more to offer and we can really be proud of ourselves.

"When we scored the third goal, I was sure we'd win the game because the spirit was amazing." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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