Balotelli (8mins pen, 27mins, 56mins pen), Lescott (14mins),
- Matchday centre
- Match reports
- 28 December 2010 16:53
- Posted by Chris Bailey
It arrived eight days later than we all hoped but the Blues hit the Premier League summit at 4.52 this afternoon.
That is when the EPL's youngest ever referee Michael Oliver blew his whistle to end a ninth home win in ten meetings with Villa and sent Roberto Mancini’s men leap-frogging Arsenal and United in the table.
In all likelihood the stay at the top will be - for now – brief. That is of little consequence at this stage of the campaign and far more significant is that the last three days have signalled loud and clear that City are not going to fade away anytime soon.
The Everton home defeat was a major smack in the chops for all and sundry at CoMs but the way the Blues have bounced back with six points out of six shows the class, character and determination that abound at Carrington.
And whisper it quietly, lest the know-all pundits pick up on it, but it also displays a keen sense of togetherness in the dressing room something that according to the all-seeing, clever-clogs in their ivory studios and towers has been a ‘missing’ ingredient.
This game was won from the moment Mario Balotelli and Joleon Lescott both found the net in the opening fifteen minutes.
City are becoming more accomplished out of the blocks than Usain Bolt.
Balotelli converted from the spot after he had been wrestled to the ground by American defender Eric Lichaj. For the record he smiled!
Lescott doubled the lead with a header – yes! A header, our first of the season – from a Johnson corner though he needed an eagle-eyed assistant to confirm that Barry Bannan had not nodded it out from under the bar.
From then on a Villa, a side teetering dangerously just above a relegation scrap that is looking as busy as Trafford Centre sales queue, were never really a threat.
Mancini said he would ring the changes after the hard fought win at Newcastle on Boxing Day and he was true to his word.
It may sound like an Enid Blyton book but ‘five went out for Villa’.
Micah Richards, Pablo Zabaleta, Patrick Vieira, Adam Johnson and Mario Balotelli came in for Boateng, Kolarov, Milner, Barry, and Tevez.
Just how galling it was for Villa’s smallish visiting contingent to see Gareth Barry and James Miner – more than 500 games between them at their club – wearing City Blue and both sat on the bench one can only imagine.
It wasn’t anywhere near as traumatic for the buoyant home fans in a CoMs sell out as neither former multiple Blues player of the year Richard Dunne nor Stevie Ireland made Gerrard Houllier’s injury riddled travelling squad. They were each conspicuous by their absence.
Had they been in the ground they would have witnessed another mesmerising performance from David Silva, the Spanish World Cup winner who looks increasingly at home in the Premier League.
As the conductor of the orchestra he was the complete maestro threading in Balotelli for the penalty, passing to Yaya Toure to win the corner for the second and then seeing Friedel parry his shot for the third.
That third came in the 27th minute and it was a stunner. A great interchange involving Johnson and Toure led to Silva cutting inside Warnock and curling a shot into the far corner than Balotelli tapped in after Freidel’s save.
The Spaniard’s attempted back heel that set Yaya and Balotelli free towards the end of the first half was simply beautiful to witness.
Villa’s solitary attacking offering amongst the carnage caused by City was a Marc Albrighton shot stopped by Hart and tidied up by Lescott.
The second half was needless to say less intense especially after Johnson’s magic in the penalty area induced a rash challenge from Albrighton and Balotelli was able to claim a hat-trick with a second from the spot.
Mancini had seen enough. Off came Silva, Yaya Toure and skipper for the day De Jong, their legs saved for Blackpool on New Year’s Day and Arsenal after that and on came Milner, Jo and Bridge.
The Brazilian had the best chance to make it five in the 68th minute but volleyed over from the angle of the six-yard box.
No matter the game was little more than an exhibition for the last quarter with both sets of fans enjoying themselves and Delph and Lichaj bringing rares save from Hart.