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Man City loses at Aston Villa, winless run extends to four matches in wobbling EPL title defense

Aston Villa, Manchester City Ollie Watkins, Kyle Walker - The Canadian Press

BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) — Manchester City was thoroughly outplayed in a 1-0 loss at Aston Villa in the Premier League on Wednesday that extended the champions' winless run to four matches and left them six points behind leader Arsenal.

Leon Bailey scored off a deflected shot in the 74th minute, one of 22 efforts on goal by Villa in a dominant victory that lifted Unai Emery's team above City and into third place.

City fell to fourth place and its title defense is starting to creak after 15 of 38 games. So underwhelming was City's display at Villa Park that the team attempted just two shots, the fewest ever by a team managed by Pep Guardiola in league play.

City was overrun in midfield without Rodri, its anchorman who was banned. It has lost three league games this season and all of those have come while the Spain holding midfielder has been out through suspension. When Rodri is in the team, City is unbeaten in its last 43 matches.

Fourteen was the magic number for Villa. It was Emery’s first career win over Guardiola in 14 attempts and the team's 14th straight home win, tying a club record.

Bailey was the match-winner, cutting inside onto his weaker right foot and sending in a shot that flew up off the outstretched leg of Ruben Dias and beyond Ederson.

Villa also struck the post through Douglas Luiz and forced Ederson into a slew of saves, leaving City on its worst run since March-April 2017 — Guardiola's first year in charge of the club.

“In these years, we have found a way to win games but we have struggled a bit and we have to find a way," Guardiola said. "It is my job to find a solution. The dynamic changes by winning games.

"When a team is better, you have to recognize it.”

With Jack Grealish and Jeremy Doku also missing for City through suspension and injury, respectively, Guardiola was forced into a midfield that included two defenders — John Stones and Rico Lewis — with another, Manuel Akanji, pushing forward.

City was imbalanced and Villa took advantage, swarming all over the visitors and having 13 shots in the first half alone.

Aside from Erling Haaland being denied twice in quick succession by Emiliano Martinez in the 11th minute, City struggled to get out of its own half in what proved to be a tactical masterclass by Emery.

For Villa, it was a 23rd home win of the calendar year. It can match a top-flight club record that dates back to 1931 when Arsenal visits on Saturday.

A win and Villa would be just one point behind Arsenal after nearly half the campaign.

“We have to be excited but we need to keep the balance," Emery said. "I want us to be a team with a winning mentality and be balanced.

“We are aware of where we are in the table. But behind us is Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham and it is going to be very difficult."

The loss for City came after three straight draws, against Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham.


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