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Leon Bailey earns Aston Villa point after Haaland strikes for Manchester City

Aston Villa may have been unable to halt Erling Haaland but Steven Gerrard’s side prevented the striker from running riot and Manchester City taking victory. Stopping Haaland was a daunting prospect in itself but given the way City eviscerated Nottingham Forest in midweek this was an impressive point for Villa, who levelled through Leon Bailey’s wonderful first-time finish. When Haaland struck his 10th goal in six games early in the second half it seemed City would deepen the misery on Gerrard but Villa roused to claim a point and in the end it was Pep Guardiola, the sleeves on his white shirt rolled up, who was left tutting on the touchline in frustration.

Riyad Mahrez somehow shot wide with two minutes to spare, moments after Rodri saw a shot whistle narrowly past a post. But Villa will argue they were denied a winner when the substitute Philippe Coutinho sent a shot crashing in off the crossbar, after the referee Simon Hooper had already blown his whistle because the assistant referee Adrian Holmes raised his flag for offside. Many of City’s players had stopped by the time the ball flew in past Ederson.

Haaland started this game with aspirations of becoming the first player in 76 years to score a hat-trick in a third successive top-flight game but in a first half that wriggled away from Pep Guardiola’s grasp City failed to feed the Haaland machine. With four minutes gone Kyle Walker skated into the Villa box on the overlap but blazed over instead of squaring to Haaland who was lurking to his left. It seemed a foolish decision given six of Haaland’s nine goals before kick-off had come inside the six-yard box. Walker raised his hands in regret. The tap-in for his goal was to make it 10. Another apology came Haaland’s way when the returning Kevin De Bruyne, who replaced Julian Álvarez in City’s only change, overcooked a through ball that gave the City striker no chance.

Ilkay Gündogan passed up another inviting opportunity after racing between Matty Cash, who was forced off with a hamstring problem, and Ezri Konsa. Gündogan seemed to time his run to perfection but could not latch on to De Bruyne’s wicked ball from the right. Regardless City were cruising, hogging possession and when Ollie Watkins was able to hold the ball up and win a foul for Villa it seemed a cause for celebration. It was a generally demoralising existence for Villa until seven minutes before half-time when Ashley Young, who replaced Cash at right-back, came out on top in a tussle with De Bruyne as City looked to canter upfield on the counter.

Young extinguished the danger and located Douglas Luiz, the subject of three deadline-day bids from Arsenal, who slipped Watkins through behind John Stones. Watkins took a touch, did a couple of step-overs and, with the angle now more awkward, he sent a low diagonal shot at goal that Stones was able to deflect wide for a corner. Gerrard was quick to applaud his players’ efforts and the home crowd responded in turn. Until then the visitors had dominated and a quiet hush fell every time City quietly probed on halfway. Rodri, in City’s yellow and black strip, shirt neatly tucked into his shorts, orchestrated things alongside the City captain Gündogan.

Tyrone Mings seemed to relish the challenge of trying to tame Haaland but lost a wrestling match with the striker in the buildup to that early Walker chance and Haaland was unmarked when he nudged a hanging cross into the net five minutes into the second half. Bernardo Silva and De Bruyne exchanged passes down the right and the latter sent a looping cross in from the right. The ball sailed over Emiliano Martínez and Haaland simply prodded in at the back post.

Erling Haaland
Erling Haaland has now scored 10 goals in his first six league games Photograph: Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty Images

Just as Villa had worked out how to stifle City, labelled a superpower by Gerrard, they were guilty of presenting the sharpest shooter in world football with the most routine of finishes. But Haaland, starved of service in a first half in which he had 10 touches, has an insatiable appetite and forced a fine block after stabbing at goal shortly after the hour before Martínez repelled another effort that was undoubtedly heading towards the bottom corner.

Soon after, Mings tripped Haaland on the edge of the D as the striker waded into some space and from the resulting free-kick De Bruyne sent a wonderfully crisp right-foot strike dipping on to the top of the crossbar. City should have put the game to bed but when Bailey equalised they could not argue they hadn’t been warned. Before the hour Watkins played in Jacob Ramsey who, but for his slightly heavy touch and the alertness of Ederson who rushed to nick the ball, could have scored. Bailey skewed wide on the half-volley soon after and then with 74 minutes on the clock he levelled. Ramsey shuffled down the left and centred for Bailey who swept the ball home into the corner.

Even when things went wrong for City Haaland would emerge from the rubble. De Bruyne lashed an effort at goal that crashed into Haaland’s backside but seconds after the striker was cussing himself for getting in the way, he came alive as a triangle of Villa shirts went to sleep. Haaland controlled the ball and deftly flicked it into the path of De Bruyne, who poked a shot wide.

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