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.
WELCOME TO VILLA PARK. pic.twitter.com/k849Vrv8Fq
— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) December 6, 2023
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.