Football NewsPhil Foden Hat-trick Energises Man City’s Title Bid
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Phil Foden struck a superb hat-trick as Guardiola was afforded the luxury of resting Erling Haaland

No Erling Haaland, no problem for Manchester City, particularly when you have Phil Foden.

With Haaland rested on the bench, England midfielder Foden stepped up to score his second hat-trick of the season and take his tally for the campaign to a career-best 21.

The 23-year-old was simply unplayable here, his goals keeping City on course for an historic fourth straight league title win that showed their intent to push all the way.

Just 24 hours after Haaland as the best striker in the world, in response to Roy Keane’s criticism of the City forward, Guardiola sprung a surprise by naming him among his subs.

Kevin De Bruyne was also on the bench, as Guardiola made four changes to the side held to a 0-0 draw with Premier League title rivals Arsenal at the weekend.

Villa boss Unai Emery was forced into a change of goalkeeper, with Emiliano Martinez taken unwell during the warm-up, meaning Robin Olsen was brought into the starting line-up.

City’s last defeat came at Villa in December, Guardiola describing the 1-0 loss as their worst display of the season, to which they responded by going on a 24-game unbeaten run.

Predictably, Jack Grealish had his every touch booed by the travelling Villa fans, who have not forgiven him for leaving them to join City in a £100million deal back in the summer of 2021.

Grealish set up the first chance after two minutes, threading the ball through to Julian Alvarez, who hit the side netting with his angled effort.

City’s early pressure was turned into the hard currency of a goal after 11 minutes, Phil Foden finding Jeremy Doku, whose cross was converted by Rodri, the strike standing after a VAR check for a potential offside.

That should have been the platform for City to build a lead and put the game beyond Villa, but the visitors were level in the 20 th minute with a superb goal on the break.

After the breakdown of a City attack, Villa worked the ball up the pitch, Jhon Duran scoring with a clinical angled finish after exchanging passes with Morgan Rogers.

The goal bred agitation among the City fans, which spread to the pitch, chiefly with Grealish, who was booked for dissent after initially escaping a caution for a cynical foul on Douglas Luiz.

Olsen produced a fine save with his outstretched right leg to deny Alvarez in the 36 th minute, as City put Villa under relentless pressure in search of a goal to restore their lead.

They did so in the first minute of added time, Foden winning and then converting a free-kick through the Villa wall and beyond the static Olsen.

City should have gone 3-1 ahead three minutes after the restart, but Olsen blocked a goalbound effort from Bernardo Silva with his chest.

Stefan Ortega produced vital back-to-back saves, first from Douglas Luiz, then from Duran, to preserve City’s slender lead.

Foden gave City the breathing space they needed in the 61 st minute with a sublime first-time finish, then sealed his hat-trick with an even better strike eight minutes later, the match-winner earning a standing ovation when he came off with 10 minutes to go.