Man City's Foden Bags Hat-Trick In Victory Over Aston Villa

Phil Foden sparkled brilliantly without Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne, with a magnificent hat-trick to propel Manchester City to a loud 4-1 victory against Aston Villa on Wednesday.

The champions emphatically quelled doubts about their aptitude in decisive fixtures, edging perilously close to league leaders Arsenal, trailing by just one point in the Premier League hierarchy.

Prior to Aston Villa’s visit to the Etihad, Manchester City had failed to secure a victory against any team within the Premier League’s top five in six previous encounters this season.

With an eye on the jam-packed schedule ahead, Pep Guardiola exhibited his confidence in the depth of his squad by keeping Haaland and De Bruyne on the bench for the full duration of the match, as they prepare to defend their position across three competitions.

Foden earned accolades from Guardiola as the top player in the English top-flight this season, with the 23-year-old reinforcing his manager’s commendation by increasing his season goal tally to 21. Although Manchester City suffered a 1-0 defeat to Villa in December, that loss represents their last, as Guardiola’s side has since enjoyed an unbeaten run spanning 24 games.Jeremy Doku was one of those to return to the City side among four changes and the Belgian rewarded his manager with his brightest display in a City shirt for months. Doku was the creator for the opener as he skipped past Lucas Digne and his cross was swept high past Villa’s stand-in goalkeeper Robin Olsen by Rodri.

Villa’s normal number one Emiliano Martinez was just one of a host of key absences for the visitors.

Injuries to key players like top scorer Ollie Watkins and the suspension of captain John McGinn presented significant setbacks for Villa. Moreover, Unai Emery’s strategic choice to leave Pau Torres, Youri Tielemans, and Leon Bailey on the bench indicated a focus on upcoming matches considered more feasible for securing the crucial points required for Champions League contention.

Read also: Manchester City Defeats Arsenal To Reach FA Cup 5th Round

However, Jhon Duran proved himself to be a competent replacement for Watkins, highlighting his skill by calmly finishing a splendid equalizer following a swift one-two combination with Morgan Rogers.

On the contrary, Julian Alvarez squandered his opportunity to impress while occupying his preferred position with Haaland being given a break.

The Argentine World Cup winner was denied by Olsen from a narrow angle and then saw a header tipped over by the Swedish goalkeeper.

However, City did restore their lead before half-time to calm the rising tension among the Etihad crowd thanks to Foden’s first.

The trajectory of his free-kick cunningly exploited a gap in the Villa wall, a gap that emerged when Nicolo Zaniolo drifted out of position, thereby obstructing Olsen’s line of sight. Stefan Ortega, Man City’s second-string goalkeeper, finds himself in a unique position, benefiting from Ederson’s thigh injury and enjoying an extended run in the team.

The German goalkeeper was called upon to make a crucial save after halftime, thwarting Villa’s attempt to equalize for the second time, as Douglas Luiz was denied. Foden then secured the victory by calmly slotting home Rodri’s pass off the inside of the post.

With flair and finesse, he completed his hat-trick by unleashing a ferocious shot into the top corner from outside the box. Liverpool, set to face bottom-ranked Sheffield United on Thursday, could potentially reclaim the top spot in the league standings.

Still, Manchester City will approach the remainder of the season with quiet assurance as they strive to achieve an unparalleled feat of winning four consecutive English top-flight titles, knowing that they have already surpassed the toughest challenges in their run-in.

With just one more showdown against a top-six rival, an away clash against Tottenham, in their remaining eight matches of the season, Guardiola’s side maintains a favorable fixture list. Despite the setback, Villa remains only two points ahead of Spurs in the battle for a top-four finish, albeit having played an additional game.

Africa Today News, New York

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