Aston Villa 1 Manchester City 2

Last updated : 07 May 2005 By Footymad Previewer
Manchester City set themselves up for a real cliff-hanger final game of the season against Middlesbrough to determine who will win the final UEFA Cup place.

Stand-in manager Stuart Pearce admits that when he took over from Kevin Keegan eight games ago his main hope was that he would not see Manchester City relegated.

In the space of eight games Pearce has transformed City and on the strength of being unbeaten in their last seven games he is likely to be appointed as manager in the summer.

After beating Villa to record their first win on the road under his control Pearce said: "This victory has put a real edge on the game against Middlesbrough.

"We should have beaten Villa more convincingly. We came out of the blocks and played really well with two quick goals.

"Later we had other opportunities to have killed off the game, but in the end it was the character of my side which finally enabled us to win.

"I was delighted with the result and Shaun Wright-Phillips is a great asset - and I am pleased I'm retired! He produced a sensational goal and now he is in double figures and most have been solo efforts."

Villa boss, David O'Leary, was not so happy. He said: "We gave them two gift goals but afterwards we should have scored quite a few goals.

"It has been that type of season. Over the last few weeks we have been vulnerable at centre-back, giving away too many silly goals and generally making life hard for ourselves.

"We have created enough chances but have not been scoring enough goals and that has been the story of our season."

O'Leary may have a £20million war chest to spend on new players but this is of little consolation in their present predicament.

O'Leary has chanced his luck a little too often and all his shortcomings are coming home to roost in a dramatic fashion.

Hammered 5-1 at Tottenham in their previous game Villa found themselves trailing by two goals in the first 12 minutes and seemingly not in with a hope of redeeming themselves until the second half.

Villa's fans at the Holte End were far from impressed and expressed their feelings about the current situation as their team struggled to get to grips with a high flying City side that has rapidly climbed the table.

Jlloyd Samuel and Juan Pablo Angel, who have both had a miserable season for Villa, again came in for heavy criticism.

Samuel, later substituted, was plainly at fault with the opening goal after only five minutes. He stood off Wright-Phillips and the little England winger is never slow to exploit such a situation.

Turning quickly he gathered pace to take him first past Samuel and then the lunging Gareth Barry before scoring with a low shot to the right of a helpless Thomas Sorensen.

The Villa keeper was similarly transfixed when Villa's defence was again split open with embarrassing ease by some smart passing between Antoine Sibierski and Jonathan Macken which left Kiki Musampa ample time to line up his powerful shot past Sorensen.

Villa's defence continued to be an embarrassment but Steve Davis gave them hope with a couple of efforts which were both saved by David James.

The introduction of Nobby Solano produced a massive improvement by Villa as he pressurised the City defence.

He set up Angel's 62nd minute goal to revive Villa but City held on for their vital win and the showdown with Middlesbrough next week.

Man of the Match: Nobby Solano – The Peruvian winger transformed Villa after coming on as a second-half substitute, but an inspirational display was still not enough to rescue his side.