Carlos Tevez scored the only goal of the game as Villa failed to get a surprise point in their battle against relegation. Plus: squirrels, kangaroos and amourous pandas
Right, that's it from me. Thanks for all your emails and reminiscences. Stick around on the site for all the reports and reaction. But, from me, cheerio!
Hard to draw too many conclusions from that. But when has that ever stopped us? Villa had an abundance of spirit but a shortage of quality and, crucially, a mistake or meltdown never far from the surface. City didn't look like a team about to win 10 on the bounce and squeak to the title, but neither were they disinterested. In retrospect, it wasn't exactly a thriller.
PEEP! PEEEP!! PEEEEP!!! And those games will have to be Villa's focus now. The home side huffed and puffed, but at no point really looked like putting a dent in City's house, never mind blowing it down. City close the gap at the top to 12 points, not, you imagine, that it'll matter in the end.
90+3 min: Delph picks up a booking that will rule him out of Villa's crucial forthcoming double header against Reading and QPR
90+2 min: … which is hoofed, unforgiveably, on to the roof of the net, a set-piece so incredibly hard to fathom it can only truly be explained by a series of hour-long documentaries presented by Professor Brian Cox.
90+1 min: Villa work themselves into something of a frenzy. Lowton leaps high in search of a free-kick on the edge of the box, Holman loops in a cross. Eventually the home side win a corner …
89 min: Barry on, Silva off. The ex-Villa substitute gets roundly booed. And in a busy few seconds for the fourth official, he's just indicated there'll be a minimum of four minutes to add on.
87 min: Tick, tock, tick, tock … Villa are trying desperately hard but getting nowhere really. Like a shoal of mackerel trying to build a shed.
85 min: Agbonlahor skins Clichy down the right and Benteke eventually gets on the end of his cutback. He tumbles to the turf, but there's no risk of a penalty despite the odd shout from the crowd.
84 min: Westwood off, Al Ahmadi on. Time running out for Villa.
83 min: Javi Garcia, so alone in the penalty box for a City corner that he's can only communicate with other players on the pitch by carrier pigeon, volleys a twisting effort a yard or two wide. That was one of those moments where you have to double take.
82 min: Bennett four-irons into the box, Benteke nods down, but Hart gathers.
80 min: Nasri replaced Tevez a few moments ago as City look to close this out.
79 min: Delph skips past a couple of challenges before running into the Wall of Toure. Seconds late Weimann volleys a difficult half-chance over. A long way over.
77 min: The calm before the final storm …
75 min: The increasingly impressive Guzan – who, replays show, got a faint but vital touch on that Toure effort a moment ago – roars out to claim a corner then sends Villa away on the counter with a smart throw.
74 min: Benteke goes into Mike Dean's Big Book of Very Naughty Boys for giving Nastasic a whack with his arm as the pair go up to challenge for a header.
71 min: GOA … NO, OFFSIDE! Yaya Touré works himself just enough space on the edge of the area and thunks his shot past Guzan. It rattles off the inside of the post and drops out to Dzeko who taps home but was a yard offside from the original shot. And he knew it.
70 min: For all Villa's efforts, both in this spell and in that opening 15 minutes, they've only mustered one shot on target thus far – Benteke's effort that was cleared off the line by Tevez earlier on.
69 min: Weimann does well to read a deep Bennett cross and wins a rather soft foul of Milner over to the right of the City penalty area … but City comfortably clear the set-piece.
67 min: Holman has replaced N'Zogbia for the home side, who are beginning to build up some momentum.
66 min: The ball breaks to Lowton 30 yards from goal and he catches his effort beautifully – it's a white russian of a strike: creamy but with that spike of vodka-ish danger. Unlike a good white russian, though, it fails to hit the target.
64 min: … Tevez, though, can only clip the set-piece into the wall. "For Phil West at 46 mins: get one of the older Killie tops, the logos are better," writes Seamus Devlin. "The newer ones start to come off in the wash." The Guardian MBM – always providing a service.
63 min: Baker clatters into Yaya Toure to give City a free-kick on the edge of the area, a set piece so hazardous to Villa that Guzan ought to don a bio-suit …
62 min: … which is nodded over by Benteke, via a deflection. And the second corner comes to nothing. But again the green shoots of optimism appear for Villa in the the vast wastelands of despair.
61 min: Weimann gets down the right this time and his cross is deflected away off Toure for a corner …
60 min: Weimann picks the ball up 45 yards from goal and turns to run at the City defence. Then his belief seems to abandon him and he is easily eased off the ball. Villa seem to have turned the corner again though. They're back in the hunt.
58 min: … a punt into the box, a glance on by Benteke, and an entirely predictable goal kick.
57 min: Benteke and Nastasic again grapple, and again it's the Belgian who gets the decision. Villa free-kick, near half-way …
56 min: This second half has started in very, very ominous fashion for Villa …
54 min: OFF THE LINE! But it should have been 2-0. Dzeko and Tevez jink through the Villa defence and really should lay the ball square to give Silva a straightforward tap-in, but instead he goes along and sees his dragged shot trundle past Guzan but then cleared by – I think – Lowton.
51 min: The ball drops loose to Tevez 30 yards from goal and in the blink of an eye he's lashed a vicious effort at goal. It dips up – can a shot dip upwards? No, probably not in retrospect – and swerves a yard or two wide.
50 min: Benteke wins a free-kick. Cue sarcastic cheers directed at the referee from the home terraces. It's whipped in, Clark glances it on, but the effort bobbles well wide.
49 min: "As WWF rebranded itself as WWE, leaving the World Wildlife Fun as the only WWF," begins Enna Cooper, "your comments on 43 minutes have left me imagining that Kolo Toure and Christian Benteke are sitting in the centre-circle, dressed in Panda onesies and chewing on bamboo stalks, while the rest of the world looks on, hoping that the two of them will have sex." Enduring image, isn't it?
48 min: N'Zogbia skips through the City defence, but can only plop a poor pass in the vague direction of Benteke. City surge away at breakneck speed, an attack that ends with Dzeko watching his deflected volley drift inches wide of Guzan's post.
47 min: Tevez feeds Zabaleta on the edge of the box, but the full-back's shot is weakly struck into the legs of a Villa defender.
46 min: "I bought a Luton Town 3rd kit this year - after the FA Cup made me aware of them - for their hats and bees badge," writes Phil West. "Nothing has ever been more twee. (Then again, I'm American. We think lots of British things are twee.) Note: I now want a Kilmarnock jersey."
Peep! Off we go again.
"Speaking of ironing on shirts, I remember when the Man Utd Sharp sponsored jerseys came out with the white stripes at the shoulder blades," misty-eyes Andrew Joseph. "Everybody had one except me because we couldn't afford one. So I improvised with a red t-shirt and sewed the white stripes and the logo in the middle. I remember getting an awful slagging but I didn't care. I was Norman Whiteside in the 1985 FA Cup final …"
"None of those new-fangled iron on numbers for me in the 1960's," theydontmakeemlikethatanymores Mark Judd. "My mum sewed number 11 on my shirt in honour of my hero George Best. I shall remind her of that this coming Sunday. The other thing about replica shirts in the 60's and 70's was that many teams wore similar colours, particularly their away kits and so you could mix and match various kits to be Man Utd, Everton, Arsenal - all of which played in yellow with a blue collar and cuffs if I recall correctly - although I'm getting on a bit now so could be wrong."
"Bloody hell. Kennedy Marbella's nostalgic piece on transfers takes me right back," irememberwhenallthiswerefields Phil Sawyer. "Not for those kind of transfers, but back to the late 80s when me and my mate formed our first band and made posters using those rub-on stencil letters, then paying the local newsagent to photocopy them. Tell the Paintshop generation that - they won't believe you."
Peep! Peep! How gutting for Villa. They'd started brightly, then clung on for their lives … then get undone just as the half-time oranges approached.
This is pretty cruel on Villa. Clark slips – or was he tripped by Dzeko? – 40 yards out. That leaves Villa utterly exposed and the Bosnian squares to Tevez, who sells Guzan and a desperately sliding defender a dummy before walking the ball home.
44 min: "I think squirrels and kangeroos are all well and good," begins the surnameless Pete, "but credit must be given to Burnley for managing to incorporate a lion, two bees, a stork and a fish on their badge - quite a managerie. I still think Morecambe's shrimp is cool."
43 min: Kolo Toure and Benteke go all WWF as they chase after a through ball. Mike Dean, clearly a grapple fan, lets them get on with it for a while before awarding Villa a free-kick.
41 min: Another Guzan save, this time from Milner's cross/shot. An American hasn't has this much on his plate since Morgan Spurlock recorded Supersize Me.
40 min: Tevez dips his shoulders and works a yard of space on the edge of the box before letting fly. Guzan supermans across goal to turn the shot away.
38 min: Villa are caught snoozing at a corner as Milner and Silva play a short one. The former whelps an attempted curler into the top corner yards wide, however. That was another let-off for Villa.
36 min: OFF THE POST! And what a goal it would have been. It's been pretty much all City for the past 10 minutes and this time they found a way through the massed Villa defence. MIlner, Yaya Toure and Silva combine before slipping the ball through to Zabaleta who cuts infield from the right and spanks a shot with his left foot against the inside of the far post, via the tips of the tips of the tips of Guzan's fingers. The ball bobbles back across the line, but Villa survive.
35 min: Silva, who has been pretty anonymous thus far, sends a pass through to Tevez but it's a touch heavy and through to Guzan.
33 min: "I'm not entirely sure that was the right decision, Mr Referee, if you don't mind me saying*," roars Benteke after being penalised by Mike Dean yet again.
*I'm paraphrasing ever-so-slightly there.
32 min: … and it's struck through the middle of a wall with all the structural solidity of the patio I spent the weekend laying but Guzan is well placed and drops on it with a certain amount of relief.
31 min: Danger here for Villa as Clark bundles Tevez over 30 yards from goal. Free-kick, to the left of goal, Milner to take …
29 min: After some neat interplay 40 yards from goal, Tevez looks to put Yaya Toure through on goal but his attempted nutmeg rattles off Lowton's legs and out like an ambitious pool pot rattling off the jaws.
27 min: Bennett and Agbonlahor down the left are proving Villa's best attacking outlet thus far. It's not exactly hot-knife-through-butter stuff but there's definite reason for hope for the home fans here.
25 min: "I'm curious about the message shirts City players seem to love," begins Kennedy Marbella. "They're clearly made from the iron-on letters from the City shop but I wonder who knocks them up? Bod the shop assistant? Carlos and Mario? Their wives? They obviously don't have an 'ñ' in the club shop, so in the picture at the top of the page Carlos has had to cut down another letter to make the "tilde" or bar across the top of the N. Which is sort of nostalgically charming - in the days before replica shirts in the late 60s and early 70s my mum used to cut down iron-on transfers and seek out suitable numbers for the back of a plain white T-shirt to recreate a Spurs shirt. Tell that to most kids of today, they'd laugh in your face. Not Carlos though."
23 min: Rodwell, only just recovered from a hamstring injury, looks to have suffered a recurrence and trudges off sadly. Dzeko replaces the unfortunate midfielder.
22 min: … but with the ball in mid-air, Mike Dean whistles for a City foul. And in more concerning his news for the visitors, the dust clears to reveal Rodwell sitting on the turf with a grimace on his face and what appears to be a tweak in his hamstring.
21 min: Rodwell rattles down the other end and forces Guzan to tip over for a City corner …
20 min: OFF THE LINE! Agbonlahor wins a corner, which is swung onto the formidable bonce of Benteke. He powers his header goalwards, but finds Tevez, who sticks to his job on the post and clears.
19 min: A vociferous round of applause echoes round Villa Park as the home fans pay tribute to the absent Stilyan Petrov.
17 min: Zabaleta takes a whack from N'Zogbia's errant boot. He's groggy but seems OK to continue.
16 min: Milner letting a long ball drift over the by-line expecting a corner + goal kick = bemused expression and angry words with the referee.
15 min: Delph scurries and jinks neatly in midfield to keep Villa on the front foot, as they have been for the majority of this opening quarter hour. City haven't got going here
12 min: Benteke, like a giant wrestling his way through a forest, looks to muscle his way through the City defence but the champions get numbers back to smuggle the ball clear.
10 min: Rodwell finds space 25 yards from goal and lets fly at Guzan's goal, but the effort swerves well wide.
9 min: Lowton, the only Villa ever-present in the Premier League, sends in another cross but City clear and break with intent. Silva sends in a slightly lazy cross, Villa nod clear and the threat passes.
7 min: "Surely the best animal badge is that of Maidstone FC," reckons Griffith Rowlands, "which features a dinosaur (an iguanodon, since you ask)." That is indeed impressive.
6 min: … which Benteke nods into the stands. Still, this has been a promising start from the home side.
5 min: Bennett slings in a cross and Weimann is a yard or so away of prodding a shot at goal. Corner …
3 min: Harum-scarum stuff from City. Garcia skews a clearance into the night sky, Hart comes and punches with all the calm assurance of a a caffeine-dependent kangaroo denied it's early morning americano. Nastasic gets up highest to tidy up the danger but that was wobbly from City.
2 min: Silva, Tevez and Yaya Touré combine through midfield as City probe for a gap. Villa are organised enough to see off the danger.
1 min: In one of the least likely reducers of the season, Agbonlahor skitters into Zabaleta in the opening seconds to concede a free-kick.
Peep! Off we go then. While they waited for the TV all-clear for kick-off, Villa's players gathered in a huddle. Not one of those arms-round-the-shoulders-rabble-rousing-efforts but more a loose mooch in a circle. Interesting to see how that plays out …
Click-clack, click-clack … out come the teams into a reasonably full Villa Park, home, as plenty of hacks will tell you, of one of the Premier League's best breakfast buffets.
"Aguero picked up a knee injury in training yesterday," notes Allan Scanlon in Japan. "Don't go much for you choice of quarters and handfuls. It had to be Kop Kops, Fizzy Oranges, Fruit Salads, Black Jacks, Candy Shrimps, those rubbery bananas, Refresher chews, chocolate mice … Don't get them over here!"
"Your intro was quite the nostalgia rush," sighs Ian Copestake. "Do you have any teens who follow MBMs? I ask only because I wonder if these reports will feature in their own set of gushing memories of those oh-so-difficult years. Mac Millings is probably a mythic figure to them." I'm sure that, of course, our MBM demographic is from eight to 88 and beyond.
Aston Villa: Guzan, Lowton, Clark, Baker, Bennett, Weimann, Westwood, Delph, Agbonlahor, N'Zogbia, Benteke. Subs: Given, El Ahmadi, Holman, Sylla, Bowery, Dawkins, Lichaj.
Man City: Hart, Zabaleta, Toure, Nastasic, Clichy, Javi Garcia, Rodwell, Milner, Toure, Silva, Tevez. Subs: Pantilimon, Lescott, Nasri, Dzeko, Sinclair, Kolarov, Barry.
Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral)
So Carlos Tevez replaces Sergio Aguero in the City side, while Villa are unchanged from the 2-1 defeat against Arsenal.
Was it really only three years ago? Back in those sepia-tinged days of 2009-10 Aston Villa finished just three points behind Manchester City in the Premier League. If it were not for the defeat at Eastlands on the penultimate weekend of the season Villa would've finished above the side that were beginning to get used to life under Roberto Mancini. Instead, Villa finished sixth for the third season running, another perfectly satisfactory campaign safely ensconced in the upper echelons of the Premier League.
Yet it feels like an eternity ago, somehow belonging to a different age, a time when we'd suck on Highland Toffees, watch Why Don't You? and wonder whether we shouldn't just switch it off and do something less boring instead. Like play Duck Hunt. Or Manic Miner on the ZX. Then we'd have fishfinger sandwiches for tea and skip down to the papershop to buy a quarter of chewing nuts or a handful of mojos. And if it feels like that for a neutral, think how long the past two and a bit seasons must've felt for Villa fans.
This decade has not been a happy one on the Holte End and it could get a lot worse before it gets better. Villa last spent time outside the top-flight in 1987-88 but face the very real possibility of a visit from Clem and match analysis courtesy of Steve Claridge and Leroy Rosenior in 2013-14.
A year ago I felt that was just what Villa needed. But it's not the same this time around - Villa don't feel like they've been miserably shambling through another season of nothingness. There's a spark, there's something worth nurturing. Unfortunately for Paul Lambert and his team, however, there may not be three worse sides than them in the Premier League this year.
To put a positive spin on things: since a hideous Christmas and new year period that culminated in the 3-0 home defeat to Wigan, results haven't been all that bad – draws away to sixth-placed Everton, eighth-placed Swansea and ninth-placed West Brom and a win over now-12th West Ham aren't to be sniffed at. To give things a more negative slant: since Christmas Villa have lost four out of their five home games, three of those defeats coming against Wigan, Southampton and Newcastle, all sides they will have been hoping to overhaul.
Given that backdrop anything Villa pick up tonight would be an unexpected bonus – even if the pretty bleak prospect of what remains for them this season is in danger of giving Manchester City an existential crisis. For Villa what comes next is potentially decisive: a mid-March double-header so pivotal it has its own chapter in several physics textbooks. Lambert's side visit Reading on Saturday, then welcome QPR to Villa Park a week later.