London (AFP) – Manchester City ended their Chelsea hoodoo on Saturday, beating the European champions 1-0 while Bruno Fernandes missed a last-gasp penalty in Manchester United’s shock defeat by Aston Villa.
Gabriel Jesus’ second-half strike proved decisive for Pep Guardiola’s men, who gained a measure of revenge for three consecutive defeats by Chelsea, most notably in last season’s Champions League final.
The win lifted the defending champions to 13 points alongside Liverpool, Chelsea and United, who conceded a late goal to Villa defender Kortney Hause before suffering the agony of the missed spot-kick.
Guardiola said this week that his side lacked a “weapon” to match Chelsea’s record signing Romelu Lukaku or United’s Cristiano Ronaldo to decide games inside the box.
But Brazilian forward Jesus ultimately made the difference for City, who could have won more convincingly but for a combination of wasteful finishing and some impressive last-ditch defending.
City started brightly, forcing Chelsea — previously unbeaten this season in all competitions — onto the back foot and went close in the opening minutes when Aymeric Laporte’s header dropped wide.
The key moment came in the 53rd minute when Jesus got the break City deserved to open the scoring as his effort deflected off Jorginho to leave goalkeeper Edouard Mendy flat-footed.
The visitors had chances to double their lead. Jack Grealish drew a sharp save before Jesus was denied a second by Thiago Silva’s goal-line clearance.
“Sometimes we believe we need a proper striker to finish, but the important thing is the way we play,” Guardiola told the BBC.
“The most important thing is doing it as a team and as a unit. It’s like last season. Sergio (Aguero) was injured all year and we won the Premier League.
“It’s a good way to start this fascinating week that we have ahead of us (games against Paris Saint-Germain and Liverpool).”
– Fernandes miss –
Villa arrived at Old Trafford with a woeful record of one win in their previous 45 Premier League games against Manchester United, including 33 defeats.
United were on top early on, but Villa missed two great chances to take the lead. Matt Targett blazed over from close range and Ollie Watkins shot too close to David de Gea.
The home side had chances of their own through Harry Maguire and Paul Pogba but Hause made no mistake, heading in Douglas Luiz’s corner with two minutes remaining.
Hause then conceded a penalty in stoppage time, handling a cross, but Fernandes — normally so reliable from the penalty spot — fired over.
It was just his second miss from the penalty spot in 23 attempts for United.
United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, whose side have lost three of their past four matches in all competitions, said Villa’s goal was offside and criticised the way Fernandes was surrounded before his penalty.
“First of all the way they get round the penalty spot, get round Bruno and that, that’s not to my liking,” he said. “Bruno is usually very good in those positions and unfortunately he missed this one.
“It doesn’t get in Bruno’s head. He’s strong mentally and he’ll step forward again. The decision (on who takes penalties) is made before the game.”
Aston Villa boss Dean Smith said the win at Old Trafford would give his players a huge injection of belief.
“Went toe-to-toe with Chelsea, and we came here and went toe-to-toe,” he said. “They probably had a lot more chances than us but they were smaller chances and we had some really big chances and deserved the win.”
Liverpool are in action at Brentford in the late kick-off on Saturday, with a chance to go three points clear at the top of the table.
In the 1400 GMT kick-offs Norwich, without a single point after five matches, will be desperate to get off the mark at Everton while Leicester need to rediscover winning ways after two consecutive defeats.