EPL

Leon Bailey scores as Aston Villa beat Manchester City to celebrate Unai Emery landmark in style

By Sports Desk December 06, 2023

Leon Bailey fired Aston Villa to a 1-0 win over Manchester City which equalled a club record with a 14th consecutive home victory and lifted them above the stuttering champions into third place in the Premier League.

Bailey’s 74th-minute strike came thanks to a deflection off Ruben Dias but few inside Villa Park cared amid jubilant celebrations.

Unai Emery’s first career win over Pep Guardiola in 14 attempts came in his 50th match in charge of Villa, a side he has transformed from relegation battlers to top-four contenders in the space of a year.

For City it was yet another sign of their over-reliance on the suspended Rodri. They are unbeaten in their last 43 matches in which the Spain midfielder has played, but their four defeats this season have all come when he has been serving a ban.

With Jack Grealish and Jeremy Doku also missing 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.

Villa knew they could get at such an imbalanced City side and did so from the start.

City’s lack of fluidity only encouraged a Villa side already high on confidence in front of their own fans and they were all over the champions in the first half, beating the high line with regularity as Ederson was forced into early saves to deny Bailey and Pau Torres.

At the other end, Erling Haaland was denied twice in quick succession by Emiliano Martinez in the 11th minute. Villa’s World Cup winner pushed his low shot to one side and then, when Bernardo Silva picked up the rebound to cross, recovered to palm his close-range header to safety.

But that was a rare foray forward for City, who struggled to get out of their own half as Villa repeatedly picked off the ball, having 13 shots at goal in the first half alone.

They thought they had their reward on the stroke of half time. After Ederson pushed Ollie Watkins’ shot to the side, Lucas Digne stretched to cross and Douglas Luiz headed in, but the flag went in with the ball narrowly out of play.

Stones dropped back into a more conventional position to start the second half and City began to pop the ball around with something approaching their usual confidence, but without getting a sight of goal.

Instead it was Villa who threatened just after the hour mark. Bailey pounced on a loose pass from Silva and played a sweeping ball to John McGinn, who cut inside but saw his shot bounce the wrong side of the post.

City were once again struggling to get out of their own half, and Guardiola responded by sending on midfield reinforcements in Mateo Kovacic and Matheus Nunes for Lewis and Julian Alvarez, with Oscar Bobb replacing Foden soon after.

But Bobb had barely come on to the pitch when Villa took the lead. Bailey cut inside and left Josko Gvardiol behind far too easily, then checked his run on the edge of the box to hit a right-footed shot which deflected off Dias to beat Ederson.

Five minutes later, Luiz almost scored against his former club as Watkins’ shot was deflected up in the air and he pounced on the rebound to force a fine save from Ederson.

Luiz was denied again in the 86th minute when his curling shot bounced back off the post, but City had no response as their winless league run stretched to four, something which last happened in 2017.

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

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  • Euro 2024 data dive: Ronaldo breaks assist record, Group E set for historic finish Euro 2024 data dive: Ronaldo breaks assist record, Group E set for historic finish

    The action continued at Euro 2024 on Saturday, with Portugal becoming the second side to clinch their place as group winners, after Spain.

    It was a memorable day for Cristiano Ronaldo, and not only because a total of six pitch invaders attempted to get a picture with the legendary forward.

    He laid on a record-breaking seventh goal at the European Championships as the Selecao crushed Turkiye 3-0, while there was nothing to separate Georgia and Czechia in a 1-1 draw elsewhere in Group F.

    In Group E, meanwhile, it's all to play for with all four teams on three points after two games, following Belgium's 2-0 victory over Romania.

    Here, we run through all the best Opta stats to emerge from the day's matches.

    Georgia 1-1 Czechia: Mikautadze replicates Shevchenko feat

    The first game of the day served up yet another entertaining encounter as Georgia claimed their first point at a major tournament against Czechia in Hamburg. 

    Georges Mikautadze gave Georgia the lead after Robin Hranac was adjudged to have handled the ball inside the area, scoring from the penalty spot to become the sixth player to net both of his nation's first two goals at the European Championships, and the first since Andriy Shevchenko in 2012 for Ukraine.

    Giorgi Mamardashvili made eight saves in the first half, equalling the most of any goalkeeper in an entire game at Euro 2024, as Georgia held their advantage until the break.

    Despite his heroics, Georgia's lead was gone 14 minutes into the second half as Patrik Schick moved ahead of Milan Baros as Czechia's top scorer at the Euros, putting the ball in off his chest from close range for his sixth goal at the competition (five in 2020).

    Czechia continued to dominate proceedings, but their lack of clinical edge in front of goal proved costly. They recorded 12 shots on target against Georgia; the most by a team who failed to win a match at the European Championships on record (since 1980). 

    But a lot of that was down to the inspired performance of Mamardashvili. The Georgia goalkeeper made three saves in the second half, taking his tally to 11 for the match, with only Latvia's Alexanders Kolinko (12) making more in a game at the Euros on record (since 1980), against the Netherlands in 2004. 

    However, Georgia had a golden opportunity to earn their maiden win at a major tournament when they found themselves three-on-one with the clock ticking down, but Saba Lobjanidze could only fire the ball over the bar. 

    Georgia now know they must beat Portugal in their final group game in Gelsenkirchen next Wednesday, but they can take confidence from their recent form. 

    Since losing three in a row between June and September 2023, Georgia have only lost two of their last nine games in all competitions (four wins, three draws).

    Turkiye 0-3 Portugal: Ronaldo breaks all-time assist record

    259 miles west of Dortmund, Portugal became the latest team to confirm their place in the last 16 of Euro 2024 with a comfortable triumph over Turkiye, recording their joint-biggest victory in a match at the Euros in the process. 

    Roberto Martinez's side were aided by a defensive disasterclass from their opponents, having taken the lead through Bernardo Silva's first international goal at a major tournament.

    Samet Akaydin's calamitous own goal doubled their advantage, the defender's misplaced back pass rolling in for only the second own goal from outside the box in European Championship history, after Pedri achieved the unwanted feat for Spain against Croatia at Euro 2020. 

    Portugal will, however, be without Rafael Leao for their final group game against Georgia, having picked up his second yellow card of Euro 2024, both for diving, becoming the only player on record (since 1980) to have multiple cards for simulation at the tournament.

    Bruno Fernandes made sure of the victory 10 minutes into the second half, with more defensive blunders allowing Ronaldo to lay the ball on a plate to secure his seventh assist at the European Championships – the most on record (since 1968) of any player in the competition’s history.

    Manchester United midfielder Fernandes continued his stellar spell for his national side, and he has now been involved in 28 goals in his last 23 appearances for Portugal in all competitions, scoring 15 and assisting 13.

    Martinez's side have now won both of their group-stage games so far in Euro 2024, more than they did in the 2016 and 2020 editions combined (one win, four draws, one defeat). It’s the third time they’ve won their opening two games at a single edition of the competition, after Euro 2000 and Euro 2008.

    After an impressive opening display against Georgia, Turkiye suffered their 11th defeat in the group stages of the Euros, with only Denmark (13) having more such defeats in the history of the competition.

    Belgium 2-0 Romania: De Bruyne the star as Red Devils bounce back

    Following their surprise 1-0 defeat to Slovakia on matchday one, Belgium bounced back with a 2-0 victory over Romania in Cologne, ensuring they continued their run of winning at least one game on all seven of their appearances at the European Championships.

    They wasted little time in getting their noses in front, with Aston Villa's Youri Tielemans lashing home from the edge of the box after just 73 seconds.

    That was Belgium's fastest ever goal at a major tournament (World Cup/Euros) and the third-fastest strike in Euros history, after Russia's Dmitry Kirichenko (76 seconds) against Greece in 2004 and Albania's Nedim Bajrami (23 seconds) versus Italy this year.

    It was Tielemans' first goal at a major international tournament on his 13th such appearance, with five of his eight strikes for his country coming from outside the area. 

    Domenico Tedesco's team continued to dominate as they sought a two-goal cushion, with Romelu Lukaku penalised for offside in the second half following a VAR review, having a third goal chalked off at this tournament – more than any player has scored thus far.

    Fortunately for Belgium, Kevin De Bruyne stepped up to make the points safe 11 minutes from time, prodding past Florin Nita when one-on-one. 

    Since the start of the 2014 World Cup (his first major tournament), no Belgian has been involved in more Euro or World Cup goals than the Manchester City star, whose 13 goal contributions (four goals, nine assists) put him level with Lukaku and Eden Hazard.

    De Bruyne's five shots against Romania were his most in a Euros match since 2016 (seven versus Hungary). No player on the pitch had more shots, shots on target (three), made more tackles (four) or won more fouls (four) than the Belgium skipper.

    The result means all four teams in Group E have three points with one game remaining, setting up a tense finale for next Wednesday.

    This is the first time that a European Championship group has featured four teams level on points ahead of the final set of fixtures.

  • Belgium 2-0 Romania: Tielemans and De Bruyne hand Red Devils much-needed win Belgium 2-0 Romania: Tielemans and De Bruyne hand Red Devils much-needed win

    Belgium bounced back from their opening defeat at Euro 2024 with a much-needed 2-0 win over Romania, Youri Tielemans and Kevin De Bruyne scoring as they got off the mark in Group E.

    Following their surprise 1-0 defeat to Slovakia on matchday one, Domenico Tedesco's men knew another defeat would leave them unable to secure a top-two finish.

    They came flying out of the traps and needed just 73 seconds to open the scoring, Tielemans firing home from the edge of the area following good hold-up play from Romelu Lukaku to score the Red Devils' fastest ever goal at a major tournament.

    They continued to press throughout the first half but were unable to find a second goal, Lukaku going close when he saw his shot on the turn blocked by Nicusor Bancu.

    De Bruyne flashed a curling effort narrowly wide of the far corner shortly after the break, then it appeared he had assisted Belgium's second when he released Lukaku to finish into the bottom-left corner, only for the striker to be ruled offside following a VAR check.

    Koen Casteels made a crucial stop from Dennis Man to keep Belgium's lead intact, and they made that reprieve count with 11 minutes to play, De Bruyne latching onto Lukaku's flick-on before prodding his finish past Florin Nita when one-on-one.

    Belgium failed to add a third despite chances for Lukaku and Leandro Trossard late on, but their win tees up an intriguing finale in Group E with all four teams on three points ahead of Wednesday's final set of games.

    Data Debrief: Lukaku's rotten luck continues

    Belgium may have gotten over the line on Saturday, but Lukaku continued to endure some rotten luck up top, his disallowed goal in the second half being the third strike he has seen chalked off at Euro 2024. That is more goals than any player has scored. 

    Not including those strikes, he has now failed to score from eight shots worth a total of 1.27 expected goals (xG) at this tournament.

    He will be desperately hoping it is a different story in next Wednesday's decider against Ukraine.

  • Ronaldo's record-breaking assist 'should be shown in every academy', says Martinez Ronaldo's record-breaking assist 'should be shown in every academy', says Martinez

    Cristiano Ronaldo's record-breaking seventh assist at the European Championships should be shown to all young players across the world, says Portugal boss Roberto Martinez.

    Portugal sealed their place in the last 16 of Euro 2024 as Group F winners with a game to spare on Saturday, thrashing Turkiye 3-0 in Dortmund.

    Bernardo Silva and Bruno Fernandes scored either side of a comical own goal from Samet Akaydin, as the Selecao produced a far more complete performance than they managed in their last-gasp 2-1 win over Czechia on matchday one.

    Fernandes' clinching goal came when Ronaldo sprang the Turkiye offside trap before unselfishly squaring for his former Manchester United team-mate when they were two-on-one versus goalkeeper Altay Bayindir.

    Ronaldo's assist was his seventh at the European Championships overall, the most on record (since 1968) of any player in the competition's history.

    Martinez believes that incident proved Ronaldo will always put the team first and should serve as inspiration for young players everywhere.

    Speaking at his post-match press conference, Martinez said: "We saw something extraordinary, in front of the goalkeeper, he gave it to Bruno Fernandes.

    "He is an example that should be shown in every academy in Portugal and throughout the world of football, he showed the team is the most important thing."

    Ronaldo also holds the all-time goalscoring record at the tournament, with 14, while Saturday's victory was his 23rd at major international tournaments (World Cup/Euros).

    Only Bastian Schweinsteiger and Miroslav Klose (25 each for Germany) have recorded more such wins among European players.

    Portugal's victory was overshadowed, however, by a total of six pitch invaders making it onto the playing surface, seemingly emboldened by Ronaldo posing for a photograph with the first to reach the pitch – a young boy.

    Asked about those incidents, Martinez said: "It's a concern because today we were lucky that the intentions of the fans were good.

    "I think we all love a fan that recognises the big stars and the big icons, but you can understand it would be a very, very difficult moment if those intentions are wrong."

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