City scored a vital win at Eastlands to keep pace with Spurs in the race for fourth after a 3-1 win over rivals Aston Villa.
With the Londoners beating Bolton 1-0 at White Hart Lane, it was imperative City scored a win over the Midlands squad to shift the focus of the race for fourth onto Wednesday’s big clash with Spurs at Eastlands.
The blues started brightly, forcing a succession of corners but unable to create a clear cut chance. City’s dominance was beginning to show but, inevitably, it was Villa who took the lead. Stewart Downing’s ball found John Carew in acres of space and his low shot went under debutant Marton Fulop for the opening goal.
City pushed forward again but just couldn’t make the breakthrough. A Wayne bridge effort was blocked while Adam Johnson’s shot from outside the box drifted wide. Vincent Kompany was then unfortunate to go into the referee’s book after he looked to have won the ball from Gabriel Agbonlahor.
As the half hour approached, Pablo Zabaleta made City’s first appeal for a penalty as he went down in the box but his appeals were waved away by the referee. Moments later, Downing could have made it 2-0 but fired wide
Three minutes later, Carols Tevez’s shot hit Stephen Warnock on the arm, but the appeals were again waved away. However, there as no denying the blues a spot kick minutes later. Warnock floored Adam Johnson to give Tevez the opportunity to score from the spot, which he took to bring City level.
The supporters didn’t have long to wait until the next goal and it came from a blue shirt. Moments after Carew hit the bar, Johnson picked up the ball on the right before cutting inside and laying the ball off for Adebayor. Brad Friedel in the Villa goal got a hand to it but couldn’t stop it from hitting the back of the net and giving City a 2-1 half time lead.
By comparison to the first half, the second 45 minutes was a scrappy affair, but Zabaleta found himself free on the edge of the box but his shot which was deflected onto the roof of the net. Villa’s Ashley Young was left unmarked at the far post by the City defence but fortunately his diving header went wide. Five minutes later, Bellamy’s curling right foot shot produced a fine save to keep the scoreline at 2-1.
Villa tried pressing forward but couldn’t find a way past Kompany or Toure and the former also had a chance to finish the game from yet another corner but headed wide. But City made the game safe in the last minute of normal time.
A Villa corner was punched away by Fulop and substitute Shaun Wright-Phillips picked the ball up on the left, before skipping past two challenges before finding Bellamy who controlled and fired into the Villa goal to secure the points.
The win made City’s place in Europe for next season mathematically safe but the big prize will be contested on Wednesday night as Spurs visit Eastlands.