Manchester City took an important step closer to the title as they overturned a 20th second goal by John McGinn thanks to efforts by Phil Foden and Rodri, with both teams finishing the match with ten men.
The goal was the second fastest ever scored against City in the Premier League era, but the reaction thereon showed Guardiola’s men have the fight to hold off any challengers- even if said character was rather lacking at Wembley against Chelsea.
This game, however, brought back bad memories. Those memories are of a John Stones making horrendous mistakes.
Here, as mentioned, it took 20 seconds. A freekick was hoofed in behind, with Stones misjudging the flight and allowing the ball to get beyond him to Ollie Watkins.
Watkins cross, McGinn finish, worst possible start. Would City crumble?
Not a chance.
In fact, the away team started playing some of their best football of the season, with Villa barely touching the ball for the next half an hour as City mesmerised them into submission.
Foden was running Matty Cash ragged, and he grabbed the equaliser from a Bernardo Silva cutback in a move started by Ederson, a goal which showcased City’s attacking ability at its very best.
More wonderful skill from Foden led to the second, as the corner he won was returned in by Silva to Rodri, who glanced his header perfectly into the far corner of the goal. It was the minimum that City deserved.
With six minutes of the half to go, City just had to make sure they did not make any silly mistakes to allow Villa a way back into the match.
Welcome, John Stones.
Another misjudgement- this time at the halfway line- saw the defender late to a loose ball and swinging his boot high into the knee of Jacob Ramsey. VAR called the referee to the infamous monitor, with the initial yellow card being correctly upgraded to red.
What is more frustrating is the needlessness of it. City had been so good, so dominant, ahead in the game and ready to continue that into the second half. Minutes before the whistle, and that strong position was in jeopardy.
Half time: Aston Villa 1-2 Manchester City
Villa made an attacking change at the start of the second half, going with two up top in an attempt to exploit the space in behind with a man advantage. Gabriel Jesus was also sacrificed for Aymeric Laporte, as City reshuffled the pack.
Seven minutes into the half, Villa right back Cash saw yellow for pulling back Foden, who had bamboozled him for roughly the 70th time in the match.
‘Imagine if he got sent off,’ one particular City viewer thought.
It was a slightly hopeful thought, yet two minutes later it became prophetic.
Cash, beaten by Foden for now the 71st time, hacked the youngster down on the wing for the most blatant of second yellows you could wish for. Dean Smith, unsurprisingly, was furious at his defender, with Villa going to three at the back and keeping both strikers on the pitch.
The only issue with going toe-to-toe with City? Well, individually their players are far better. Far, far better.
For 35 minutes, City played keep ball. Villa never got within 30 yards of the City goal, never mind a scoring position, for the entire remainder of the game.
In a way, the control was extraordinary. This is a team that put seven past Liverpool on the counter, remember, yet here they physically could not get the ball back off their opponents.
City had half chances to make the game safe, but the final ball was never quite right, as several very good positions were wasted with the wrong choice of pass or cross.
However, Villa never looked like equalising, and three minutes of stoppage time were seen out with the ball firmly in Villa territory.
At full time, City were now only a couple of wins from domestic glory, while Villa remain in 11th, with their hopes of European football next season seemingly slipping away.
Full time: Aston Villa 1-2 Manchester City
Man of the Match: Phil Foden
Just watch his highlights from this game. Seriously, watch them. The ball was on a string, with Villa players either twisting themselves inside out or resorting to hacking down the Englishman as he waltzed past them. He was scarily good. Matty Cash will be praying he does not have to see him again any time soon.