Wednesday 21 August 2019

Garde's French revolution brings City scoring spree to a grinding halt as Villa stand firm

Aston Villa 0-0 Manchester City

Aston Villa's new French manager Remi Garde looks on as his side holds league leaders City to a goalless draw
Aston Villa's new French manager Remi Garde looks on as his side holds league leaders City to a goalless draw
Aston Villa's Ciaran Clark puts in a strong tackle against City's Jesus Navas
Aston Villa's Jordan Veretout is tackled by Fernandinho

John Percy

Remi Garde's bienvenue to Premier League management could have been an uncomfortable experience but this provided hope of a brighter future at Aston Villa.

Garde's French revolution is up and running after his team avoided a club record eighth successive League defeat as Manchester City endured an excruciating afternoon in the rain.

It was frantic, desperate stuff at times but Villa deserved their point for a performance of unwavering commitment, assisted by a few slices of fortune. City failed to score for only the second time since mid-March, with Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne and Fernando all wasting opportunities to extend their lead at the top of the table.

Villa did not produce a shot on target but there were no complaints from the home supporters. Their ire was directed instead at Fabian Delph, who made his first return since his controversial departure.

The sound of boos at the final whistle has been the soundtrack of Villa's season yet yesterday's was greeted with rapturous applause as fans sensed a way out of the mud.

Garde said: "It will be a tough mission but this is one point and let's see what happens. To get a clean sheet against such a good team means we should be more confident next time. When you play with sadness, it does not help you. I can be happy with them today, though, there were smiles on faces."

Garde described Villa's predicament as "unfortunate" in his first programme notes and produced an instant statement of intent by recalling the four players signed from France this summer.

Their arrival had sparked the friction between Tim Sherwood and Villa's transfer committee but they all started here, offering a serious hint as to why Garde was appointed. Jordan Veretout, an £8m buy from Nantes, had not even played in the last four games under Sherwood and caretaker manager Kevin MacDonald, while there was a late cameo for Charles N'Zogbia, last seen in their FA Cup final capitulation to Arsenal.

Villa produced an encouraging first-half performance, with far more fluency and pressing, surprising City with their intensity.

Yet the feel-good factor was nearly punctured in the 17th minute when goalkeeper Brad Guzan was fortunate when he spilled Aleksandar Kolarov's low shot onto the outside of a post.

City's plans were damaged midway through the half when Wilfried Bony was forced off with a hamstring injury. Sergio Aguero is expected to rejoin the squad next week after a similar problem - and it cannot come soon enough for Manuel Pellegrini.

City had claims for a penalty waved away late in the first half when Sterling collapsed under a challenge from Ciaran Clark.

Delph came on for the final 12 minutes but it was another substitute, Villa's Rudy Gestede, who provided the controversy. City had knocked the ball out of play so that the injured N'Zogbia could receive treatment.

Gestede motioned he would throw the ball to Joe Hart - but when he did, he hurled it so hard Hart could not control it and conceded a corner. Gestede could have sparked more uproar but instead hooked the ball over and Fernando almost stole the points when he headed against the crossbar. Delph rolled the loose ball wide and Villa clung on.

Pellegrini said: "Of course I am disappointed about the result but I can't complain about my team because we dominated the game.

"We were very unlucky with the three chances we had. All the teams have this kind of game once during the season."

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