This was all supposed to be about Jack Grealish on his first return to Aston Villa, but once again it was hard to leave behind the magic and audacity of Bernardo Silva.
The Portugal international’s winning goal was scandalous: a sumptuous first-time volley that made Pep Guardiola shine on his brilliance.
But the Manchester City manager was also excited by the fact that Silva shut out Tyrone Mings and Emiliano Martínez in the closing minutes of Wednesday night’s 2-1 win at Villa Park, thus preventing the locals from launching an attack. late.
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When asked later if Silva was among the best players in the Premier League at the moment, Guardiola simply replied: “The best.”
When asked to confirm whether he really had the best intention, the city chief nodded defiantly.
“When we scored 98 points, he was also the best,” added the Catalan, alluding to Silva being beaten for Premier League Player of the Season and PFA Player of the Year by Virgil van Dijk in 2018-19 .
“He has a knack for doing what he wants with the ball. If you look at him two or three seasons ago, you will see the same player that you are seeing now.”
“The goal was really good, both in the pass and in the shot. He is a player of another level, in every way.”
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Liverpool fans will disagree with Guardiola, of course, both for the claim that he was better than Van Dijk two seasons ago and that he is currently beating Mohamed Salah, who scored two more goals in Wednesday’s Merseyside derby. .
However, it is impossible not to be enchanted by Bernardo’s brilliance.
On more than one occasion, Villa’s defenders thought they had him pinned down, only for the Portuguese to break free thanks to a combination of his speed and determination.
On more than one occasion, Villa’s defenders thought they had time on the ball only to be rushed into punts rushed by their pressure.
His performance peaked with his extraordinary goal, a goal that could only have been scored by a world-class player brimming with confidence.
“Bernardo has a knack for doing whatever he wants with the ball,” Guardiola said. “Against a good goalkeeper, an incredible shot.”
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However, this was not just Bernardo in his prime; City were excellent too, as their goal underscores.
With Raheem Sterling lying on the ground injured after a forceful challenge, City successfully defended a rare threat from the home team.
Rather than get the ball out for treatment, Riyad Mahrez protected him from pressure from Douglas Luiz and Emiliano Buendia in his own penalty area, before launching a cheeky pass inside Fernandinho.
The midfielder released Jesús and, with City breaking quickly, the Brazilian chose Bernardo to perfection, who scored majestically with a first-rate volley.
It was impressive.
City had already taken the lead through Ruben Dias, who took another step to become the new Vincent Kompany with a 20-yard strike.
It wasn’t quite as spectacular as Kompany’s scream against Leicester in 2019, which did indeed take the title, but it was important nonetheless.
This was a tough test for City at Villa Park that rallied after back-to-back victories under new manager Steven Gerrard, while Grealish’s return only added to the atmosphere.
He came out for warm-ups before the competition with a series of boos, but mostly applause, as the home fans didn’t quite know how to react to him.
By the time he arrived for the last three minutes, the ground loudly chanted “Villa until I die,” both in recognition and in defiance.
They did it again after the full-time whistle when Grealish took an extended tour of the stadium to applaud local fans, even if some fans were still being hostile.
Many Villa’s could see from City’s performance in the first half exactly why he wanted to move to the Etihad. Guardiola’s men were shining, throwing the locals all over the field, immobilizing them in their own field and finding gaps in their defense, before Bernardo demonstrated the level that is required of Grealish to become a key player in this wonderful team.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.