Ruthless City vanquish Villa
Mancini's men back on top with four-star display
By Rob Parrish - Follow me on Twitter @skysportsrobp. Last Updated: 15/10/11 5:59pm
Manchester City roared back to the top of the Premier League table as they ended Aston Villa's unbeaten start to the season in emphatic fashion at the Etihad Stadium.
With the Carlos Tevez saga rumbling on in the background, City proved how comfortably they can cope without last season's captain and top scorer, with four different names on target.
City took the lead in the 28th minute when Adam Johnson's corner from the left was inadvertently flicked on by a Villa head, with Micah Richards chesting it down into the path of Mario Balotelli, who executed a neat overhead kick from eight yards out.
Any hopes Villa had of getting back into the game after the break were immediately extinguished when Stephen Warnock's slip saw the excellent Johnson slide the ball beyond Shay Given from the edge of the box.
More weak defending from the visitors allowed Vincent Kompany to head in a third from another Johnson corner in the 52nd minute, before Warnock pulled one back with the home side down to 10 men with Micah Richards being treated for a head injury.
But soon the hosts were back to full strength and three goals to the good again, with Johnson tormenting the visitors before finding Gareth Barry, who set up fellow former Villa man James Milner to curl home a superb effort from 20 yards, although he refused to celebrate out of respect for his old team.
And while City and Mancini can celebrate being top of the table, they know the days ahead provide stern challenges, with Villarreal in the UEFA Champions League, before the small matter of next weekend's Manchester derby.
Alex McLeish's men, who included former City favourites Richard Dunne, Given and Stephen Ireland in a line-up showing two changes, arrived at the Etihad Stadium without an away win this season but it did not show as they made a confident opening.
Gabriel Agbonlahor robbed Joleon Lescott but failed to make the most of a one-on-one with Joe Hart and Warnock failed with the follow-up as City struggled to settle.
But Balotelli then decided to wake them up, hitting tamely wide before going closer when his 25-yard curler reared up in front of Given and forced the Irishman to turn it behind.
Balotelli's frustrations at his close shave had drawn some considerable goading from the Villa fans housed behind Given's goal, but he was soon able to silence them.
Johnson's 28th-minute corner hit an unsuspecting Richards and fell perfectly for Balotelli, who produced a razor-sharp bicycle kick to leave Given flat-footed and take his tally of goals against Villa to five in three outings.
City were unable to score again before the break but did so two minutes after it when Warnock slipped as he tracked Yaya Toure's pass, leaving Johnson with a one-on-one that he did not waste.
It was Johnson's second goal in as many games and City thought they had a claim for a penalty a minute later when Balotelli took a tumble while navigating traffic in the area.
Referee Anthony Taylor was unmoved, but City were soon able to score a third without any help from the officials as Kompany, making his 100th start for the club, rose to nod in Johnson's corner with 52 minutes gone.
City's afternoon was slightly soured when Richards was forced off with a head injury just after the hour and, while he was doing so, Villa pulled a goal back as Warnock stormed on to Agbonlahor's cross - taking advantage of Richards' absence - to score.
It only provided momentary solace for Villa, though, who fell three behind again with 20 minutes remaining.
Nigel de Jong's long pass played in Johnson and, after some trickery from the winger, the ball was moved on via Barry to Milner who found the top corner from the edge of the box against his former club.
David Silva, on for Toure, then went close after more impressive work from Balotelli, before Owen Hargreaves came on for his first taste of Premier League action since an injury-halted seven minutes for Manchester United last November, immediately launching himself into two tackles as if to prove his fitness.
|Manchester City||Team Statistics||Aston Villa|
|1||1st Half Goals||0|
|8||Shots on Target||4|
|4||Shots off Target||3|
Barclays Premier League
|11||West Ham United||34||37|
|16||West Bromwich Albion||33||33|