Aston Villa 1 Man City 1: Gerrard’s troops battle hard to bag deserved point as Bailey cancels out Haaland strike

    ERLING HAALAND should today be celebrating a third successive hat-trick.

    Considering he has already scored six goals in 10 games, there will not be any accusing fingers pointing at City’s absolutely brilliant £51.1million arrival.

    Erling Haaland scored yet again for Manchester City

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    Erling Haaland scored yet again for Manchester CityCredit: Getty
    The goal at Villa Park was Haaland's 10th of the season

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    The goal at Villa Park was Haaland’s 10th of the seasonCredit: PA
    Leon Bailey's strike saw the spoils shared

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    Leon Bailey’s strike saw the spoils sharedCredit: Reuters

    Yet equally, Haaland, having given his team the lead with their first proper attack of the game, missed two chances he would have expected to score and remarkably, three guaranteed points turned into one.

    Yet instead of an easy City win, Villa sorted themselves out to deliver a result which was massive for under-fire Steven Gerrard.

    They smashed an equaliser through Leon Bailey and could even have snatched a Philippe Countinho winner had it not been ruled out for offside.

    This appeared to be a mistake by referee Simon Hooper as he blew his whistle too early following a linesman’s flag.

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    Yet Guardiola will still be happy with this start to the season even though they looked a bit ragged at the end against their pumped-up, much improved opponents.

    City might only be second in the table, for the time being at least, but remain five points clear of title rivals Liverpool.

    And best of all, they have Haaland. Goodness knows how many he will score this season.

    Only three Manchester City players scored double figures in the Premier League last season and Kevin de Bruyne was their top scorer with 15.

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    Haaland is two-thirds of the way there. With over 32 games to go.

    Haaland spent the first half trotting around in the spaces between Ezri Konsa and Tyrone Mings looking a little lost.

    He touched the ball on just 10 occasions and City headed down the tunnel at half-time having created nothing.

    The only chance had fallen to Villa’s Ollie Watkins but his goal-bound shot had been deflected wide by John Stones.

    Yet in a flash Haaland, a remarkable 22-year-old, enhanced his growing reputation as currently world’s greatest goal-hanger.

    Gary Lineker and Ian Rush, along with Gerd Muller before those two in Germany, were fearsome in those tight areas inside the 18 yard box – and Haaland looks just as good.

    It certainly helps when you have team-mates like Bernardo Silva and De Bruyne who can cause damage down the right with clever passing manoeuvres.

    De Bruyne’s far post cross was brilliant although maybe keeper Emi Martinez could have done a bit better.

    The Norwegian international judged De Bruyne’s pass to perfection, getting in between defenders Konsa and sub Ashley Young.

    And so here came his 10th goal celebration in the first few weeks.

    He punched at the air in front of the ecstatic City fans and there will be plenty of more of those this season.

    Villa had an attack when Watkins burst into the area but Ederson timed his block to perfection, otherwise it would have been a penalty.

    But then City – and Haaland – should have buried Villa.

    Haaland had forced Martinez to save with both his feet while the Argentine keeper also pushed another away.

    De Bruyne struck a free-kick against the bar and then should have done much better with another effort from a good area.

    But with City, you always expect them to score again, eventually.

    So fair play to Villa who were much more organised than their midweek trip to Arsenal.

    Villa took their chance.

    Jacob Ramsey kept the ball away from Rodri and sub Riyad Mahrez and his low pass was met with a fabulous first-time strike by Bailey from around the penalty spot.

    In the first 22 minutes, before a water break, Bailey had touched the ball just once but this was a moment of class.

    Villa thought they had scored a winner when Coutinho curled a shot into the top corner, via the inside of the woodwork from 25 yards out.

    He was apparently offside but replays showed it was a bad decision.

    Equally, this was a decent game for under-pressure Villa boss Gerrard whose team were organised in the first half and unlucky to find themselves a goal down.

    At least there will not be as much pressure when he faces former manager Brendan Rodgers at Leicester next Saturday.

    Equally, the following home game against Southampton will be a big one for Villa.

    One win out of six is still not enough for a club which has spent so much.

    And they deserved credit for pushing for a winner near the end and for a few moments, making City look a bit ordinary.

    Of course, though, they are not really ordinary.

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    Guardiola begins his Champions League mission against Sevilla on Tuesday before a fascinating home game against Spurs next Saturday.

    Equally, maybe Haaland needs a rest after this brilliant start – and so City’s players can stop having to rely on him.

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