Date: 28th September 2013 at 6:04pm
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The makings of an Indian summer set the scene for what surely would be a routine City victory at Villa Park today. Pellegrini taking no real chances with his line up except for the fact that Aguero was rested for the Champions League and the industrious Milner was included at the expense of Navas.

The back line more or less selected itself with Kompany and Nastasic in the centre and Kolarov and Zabaleta on the flanks. The majestic Yaya and Fernandinho bordered by Milner and Nasri made up the midfield with Dzeko playing in behind Negredo.

The Blues got off to a flying start and totally dominating play in the first half by at least 2:1 but there was a doggedness about Paul Lambert’s team that somehow kept them in it almost until half time.

With City forcing up the corner count to eight, one could be forgiven for asking when would they make one count. Yaya then fired a shot on target that took the slightest deflection and missed by an inch. Nasri took corner number nine and just as it had last week it found its way to Yaya who forced the ball home to at last give City the lead as the clocked ticked towards stoppage time. Deja vu? No, not really, at least not in the context of the Derby last week.

As the second half got under way it looked to be more of the same as City controlled and dominated proceedings but then totally against any kind of run of play, Villa wriggled their way into City’s penalty area and El Ahmadi wriggled clear to drill home the equaliser past a staggered Joe Hart. This goal simply smacked of a shortage of concentration at the back and I include Kompany in that indictment and to an extent Hart too.

It was particularly difficult to take. Miss Whiplash herself couldn’t have been more dominant but here City were once again failing to make it count.

All looked to have been forgiven five minutes later when Dzeko, squanderer-in-chief of several first half chances headed home corner number ten, Nasri again the provider. City looked to be resetting their sights and with the amount of ball they were seeing we could be forgiven for thinking that there was still a landslide around the corner.

The reality is that the landslide came from an unlikely direction as Nastasic, hailed by this writer as a future captain of Manchester City continued his penchant for giving away needless free kicks in the most dangerous of places, succumbed to the temptation to tug at Kozak and actually kick him with the danger smothered by Kolarov.

The eagle-eyed assistant spotted it and up stepped Bacuna to do exactly what Rooney did last week and make it 2-2.

There was still no danger was there? Well ask Kompany, Nastasic and Hart. All three of them failed to deal with a hopeful punt upfield by Guzman and Weimann sneaked in to prod the ball into an unattended net.

Now we needed to see what City were made of. And it wasn’t much. Having created around twenty chances previously, there was suddenly nothing left in the tank. Pellegrini had removed the lively looking Nasri, continuing his recent run of form in favour of Navas and for me taking off Dzeko was the wrong call.

Once City made it 2-1 Yaya thought it was rest time and back pedalled taking his foot off an accelerator that was firmly in his grip. The centre of defence joined in by nodding off at the most important time of the match. For his part Paul Lambert must have been giving out Cardiff City energy pills as his side that looked awful going forward had taken the game by the scruff of the neck and suddenly started to look livelier than at any time this afternoon. And City had no further answer. Yes Navas injected impact pace, but his crosses didn’t find forwards who by now were making the wrong runs. Milner and Kolarov down the left looked the likeliest source of setting up an equaliser, but it wouldn’t come as Villa continued to batten down hatches that were so porous earlier on.

In fact not even five minutes of added time could produce the answers that the fans wanted as Villa wound down the clock with a sea of time wasting tactics. Who can blame them?

So once again City threw away a lead against a team that is destined to spend the winter fighting towards the rear end of the Barclays Premier League and once again, despite hammering United last week, questions will need to be answered by an Engineer who somehow knows how to engineer a defeat from the jaws of victory, and an easy victory at that.

Hart showed yet again that he is clueless in lining up walls at ceremonial free kicks and even worse at lining himself up. This time he looked like one of last week’s Stretford Statues as Bacuna’s shot flew into the corner.

Nastasic simply frustrates me. Why on earth do you tug and kick someone when everything is dealt with and invite a goalscoring opportunity? What was he and Kompany doing to be dissected by what was at best a hopeful toe bunger form the Villa keeper?

Apart from their short nap in the second half which saw the lead change hands for the final time, Yaya and Fernandinho looked to have this game in their pocket. They seem to have a decent understanding which enables Yaya to get further up the field where we all feel that he is dangerous, six goals this season tells that story.

Milner worked hard but nothing went his way, Nasri was having a decent match until his number came up. His work in the places we normally see Silva was of good quality today. But it’s up top where the problems were today. The Pedmachine has gone from extolling the virtues of four on form strikers to wondering quite why Dzeko misses chance after chance. True he always manages to get a goal and his goals-to-match-ratio will no doubt be excellent, but he is missing far too many. He could have been taking the ball home by half time, and didn’t I say somewhere that he could have taken it last week too? The magic words are ‘could have’.

Negredo was getting himself caught offside too much to be a true threat. That too frustrates me. You may as well just say to the opposition – there you are, take the ball. And on that subject did Kolarov, a professional footballer earning thousands of pounds a week take a foul throw? One man leaving a comment recently had a go at me for slating Kolarov and I thought he did alright today, but come on …a foul throw!

Pellegrini will get as much stick for this result as he got adulation last week. It is said in leading Premier League circles that to win the league you need to do well against your peer teams. But that pre-supposes you beat the cannon fodder lurking in other parts of the table. City have shown they can whack United, but have failed miserably from winning positions against the lower lights of the division.

With Chelsea and Spurs sharing the spoils City were poised to take over the leadership of the table, but as they did on so many occasions last season, they couldn’t come up with the right answer. I hope that this will not be the story of the season.

The only saving grace is that the upmarket form of Everton which lives just outside Manchester slipped up too with West Brom making it a Birmingham one-two at the Theatre of Nightmares. But it’s City that concerns me. Instead of sitting top of the table right now, they have dropped a place to fourth. It simply isn’t good enough.

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