Pep Guardiola hails Phil Foden’s ‘massive influence’ on Man City after midfielder’s goal in Aston Villa win

Pep Guardiola has hailed the “massive influence” of Phil Foden at Manchester City, after the Premier League leaders edged closer to the title with a 2-1 win at Aston Villa on Wednesday.

John McGinn put the hosts ahead inside 20 seconds as City’s week looked set to go from bad to worse following their withdrawal from the widely-condemned European Super League.

But City fought back, Phil Foden netting the equaliser on 20 minutes before Rodri headed Guardiola’s side in front as half-time neared.

The visitors’ lead looked in jeopardy when John Stones received a red card for a late challenge on Jacob Ramsey – a sending-off that rules the centre-back out of Sunday’s Carabao Cup final – but Matt Cash was dismissed shortly before the hour mark.

Two fouls in quick succession, both on Foden, meant the Villa man had his marching orders, and City would see out the game to move to within eight points of the Premier League trophy. Seven points could also be enough, as long as second-placed rivals Man United do not finish with a better goal difference than City – an outcome that seems unlikely.

Evaluating his side’s performance at full-time, Guardiola told Sky Sports: “It’s not a slow start; to realise a slow start you need five, 10 minutes. [McGinn’s goal] was 20 seconds.

“It was not the best start that we imagined, but we reacted incredibly well, we played so good. Ten against 11, then when Cash was sent off as well… that was a really good performance.

“After, we controlled the game with the players we had – with Riyad [Mahrez], with [Ilkay] Gundogan, with Phil, with Rodri. We had the quality to keep the ball.

“So intense, so aggressive with the ball, always with the intention to find the spaces where you should attack. It was a good performance honestly; Aston Villa here is always difficult, of course they miss a lot Jack Grealish, but in general we did a good game.

“The team was committed, the Premier League is the most important title of the year – 11 months fighting, fighting.”

While the top flight is City’s main target, according to Guardiola, the club has a Carabao Cup final to play against Spurs this weekend, and a Champions League semi-final with Paris Saint-Germain also looms.

Following his red card against Villa, Stones is ineligible for the Wembley clash with Spurs on Sunday. Guardiola at once appeared visibly upset by referee Peter Bankes’ decision to send off the defender, though the Spaniard had calmed down by the time the final whistle arrived.

“First, I didn’t see the action in the TV,” Guardiola said. “[The tackle] is late, but the intention is not [bad]. We weren’t happy, but it’s okay. It’s a good lesson for the final on Sunday, and the Champions League games against PSG.”

Twenty-year-old Foden was the standout performer for City, however, with his coach full of praise for the midfielder after the game.

“He’s growing, this guy is growing,” Guardiola said. “He’s making steps every time he steps forward. His influence in our game is massive right now. He scored a goal, provoked three yellow cards. He’s so aggressive without the ball. He’s becoming a serious player.”

Guardiola warned, however, that young players do not always maintain such high levels of performance throughout the entirety of their careers.

“There are guys who are 19, 20 years old, they are unstoppable. When they’re 29, 30, they’re not.

“The players mark what they are on the pitch, on the grass, on the green. This space dictates who they are. Phil, right now – the last games especially – is becoming such an important player.

“His influence in the final third is so important. He can play wide, inside, so aggressive with the ball.”

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