Agbonlahor devours City with eight-minute hat-trick
Aston Villa 4 Manchester City 2
Perhaps Mark Hughes should ring Fabio Capello this morning in his hour of need.
Manchester City's manager might just find a soul-mate in the England coach, who omitted Gabriel Agbonlahor from his latest England squad and then despatched Stuart Pearce to watch the young Aston Villa forward settle this bristling game with an eight-minute hat-trick.
Capello has still to do his talking but the 21-year-old did his on the pitch as he and John Carew celebrated the signing of contract extensions last week with the scoring rush that heaped more problems on troubled City.
Humbled in the Uefa Cup by Midtjylland on Thursday while Villa were winning in Iceland, City revived memories of their 8-1 final-day mauling at Middlesbrough last season with a second-half catalogue of defensive aberrations.
Their attacking, at the same time, was bright but how long their morale will stand the sort of abject marking of which they were guilty is anyone's guess.
Agbonlahor's first senior hat-trick came from the 68th to 76th minutes as City, having fought back to 1-1, crumbled in a fashion that leaves their chances looking as remote as sightings of Thaksin Shinawatra.
"We have conceded poor goals," Hughes admitted. "Key decisions in key areas have cost us but we feel hard done by with the result."
Valeri Bojinov, the Bulgarian forward who last week returned from 12 months out with cruciate knee ligament damage, was carried off during the warm-up with a snapped Achilles, which will rule him out for up to six months – a depressing addition to an absentee list already containing Darius Vassell, Benjani, Jo and the suspended Richard Dunne.
The first half remained goalless despite three efforts by Carew and an off-target volley by Gareth Barry.
City belatedly gained some assurance and Martin Petrov worked a one-two with Ched Evans to extend Brad Friedel.
But the long-awaited breakthrough came Villa's way 100 seconds after half-time. Barry punished Gelson Fernandes' error by feeding another surprise England absentee Ashley Young and the winger's deep left-wing cross was headed in by Carew.
City at least responded well, a challenge from behind on Michael Johnson by the debutant Luke Young gifting them a 64th minute penalty that Elano casually despatched.
Equally inept defending helped Villa back in front. Ashley Young's left-wing corner was headed back by Curtis Davies for Agbonlahor to hook in on the volley.
Barry crossed for Agbonlahor to glance in the third and a link-up between Carew and Barry released Agbonlahor on a blistering long run that ended with an immaculate left-foot finish for the hat-trick goal.
Vedran Corluka's soft late consolation was just that and one man was the difference.
"It was a brilliant hat-trick," said Villa's manager Martin O'Neill. "I have no doubt that Gabby's and Ashley Young's time with England will come."
Goals: Carew (47) 1-0; Elano (64 pen) 1-1; Agbonlahor (68) 2-1; Agbonlahor (74) 3-1; Agbonlahor (76) 4-1; Corluka (90) 4-2.
Aston Villa (4-4-2): Friedel; L Young, Davies, Laursen, Shorey; Reo-Coker, Petrov, Barry, A Young; Carew, Agbonlahor. Substitutes not used: Taylor (gk), Harewood, Knight, Salifou, Routledge, Gardner, Osbourne.
Manchester City (4-4-1-1): Hart; Corluka, Richards, Ben Haim, Garrido; Etuhu, Johnson, Fernandes (Ireland, 81), Petrov; Elano; Evans (Sturridge, 81). Substitutes not used: Schmeichel (gk), Ball, Onuoha, Hamann, Caicedo.
Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire).
Booked: Manchester City: Ben Haim.
Man of the match: Agbonlahor.