Keep calm and carrying on chasing…
That’s the message from the Champions' camp after a hard-fought win at Villa Park closed the gap at the top to twelve points.
A knee problem scuppered the Argentine’s participation in the contest but still City had too much firepower for the home side.
Carlos Tevez scored the only goal of the game breaking the stalemate in the shadow of half-time when he picked up Edin Dzeko’s unselfish pass, sent two defenders and goalkeeper the wrong way and slotted into the bottom corner.
His cool finish settled the destination of the precious points as Roberto Mancini’s men recorded an 18th Barclays Premier League win over Villa – the most against any club to have graced the top flight since football’s big bang in 1992.
Dzeko began the move by robbing possession from Cieran Clark who slipped 30-yards from his own goal and then appealed in vain for a free kick.
The goal had been coming for after a slow, disjointed start and losing Rodwell to an injury. City peppered home ‘keeper Brad Guzan who saved well from Dzeko, Tevez and the aforementioned luckless Rodwell. Guzan also turned a Pablo Zabaleta shot against the post.
Villa’s best effort came early on when Tevez kicked off the line after Christian Benteke climbed highest to a corner.
This defeat plunged Villa into deeper trouble at the foot of the Premier League table but in truth the home side could have few complaints about their latest set-back.
There was style and substance, panache and precision, fortitude and flamboyance mixed into a City performance that was also flat and stilted at other times – particularly the opening quarter.
Much of the drama in the Manchester ranks came before the match with Aguero and skipper Vincent Kompany not travelling.
Gareth Barry was, however, fit again after two matches on the sidelines and he came back to the bench as Jack Rodwell and Javi Garcia were given the chance to build on the partnership forged or the first time against Chelsea.
In defence Mancini stuck to his doctrine of partnering a left and right footer at the heart of the back four. Kolo Toure kept his place after a fine show in the previous match and again showed up well with Matija Nastasic at the heart of the defence.
Having won just one of their last 10 league matches, Villa came into the match lacking confidence and knowing that they lacked goal power. At the start of the evening only QPR had managed fewer Premier League strikes. Joe Hart’s heart rate rarely rose above the norm.
Villa had not won any of the 13 league matches this season when they've conceded the opening goal and despite showing spirit in the second half seldom looked likely to snap that streak.
City on the other hand have never lost when they have scored first in the league this season (W14, D2) and now have nine clean sheets in the last eleven matches.
Further fodder for the statisticians is that this was Roberto Mancini’s 125th Premier League match in charge. His current record is: W77, D26, L22.