Dominant City are left to rue badly-timed injury to quick-witted Aguero

In the words of the T-shirt that Edin Dzeko displayed to the crowd, it was a happy New Year at Eastlands. There was a brass band playing on the concourse. Timothy Dalton and David Hasselhoff were holding court in the directors' box and Stoke were the visitors.

Tony Pulis's side are renowned for a masculine, muscular approach to the game but, whenever they come to Manchester, they become a blonde in a B-movie.

Since winning promotion in 2008, Stoke have never managed a point at either Old Trafford or Eastlands and they have yet to score a single league goal at Manchester City. Here, their first attempt came from a free-kick in the 59th minute and by then the champions were two up and the game was dead.

A day after Roberto Mancini had demanded that with the Touré brothers bound for the African Cup of Nations, the club could not afford to lose anyone else, he had to endure the sight of Sergio Aguero walking off with a hamstring injury.

"Great to end and begin the year with a win," Aguero tweeted. "Too bad about the crick. Will have to rest for 48 hours and then have some studies done."

With his quick feet and quicker brain, the Argentine had been the man of this particular match.

From the moment Pablo Zabaleta opened the scoring, the points were not up for negotiation. Pulis attempted to explain the listlessness of Stoke's performance by pointing to the gulf in finances – "You give me £220m and I'll come back next year and see what happens," he said.

Here, Stoke appeared to be on a damage-limitation exercise from the opening moments that saw Asmir Begovic save with his feet from Aguero. The time-wasting began before 30 minutes were showing on the Etihad's electronic scoreboard.

Aguero's skill was irresistible and it seemed odd that his only reward should be from a penalty, awarded for a foul by Steven N'Zonzi on David Silva. Begovic got a glove to the penalty, which was the least skilful piece of play Aguero had been involved in.

On the point of receiving a return pass from Silva, Zabaleta changed his mind and left if for James Milner, whose shot was blocked by Begovic's overworked legs, leaving him perfectly placed to tuck in the rebound.

Dzeko had given Stoke fair warning when he ran on to a chip from Yaya Touré and met it with a shot on the run that looked for a single, dramatic moment that it would dip beneath Begovic's bar.

Then, Aguero lost his marker again, saw his shot parried by the keeper and knocked home by Dzeko, who revealed his New Year message. For this he was given a yellow card, the same punishment as Robert Huth received for a crude challenge.

Football is increasingly devoid of humour. Had Len Shackleton, a man who gloried in the title of "the clown prince of soccer" attempted to sit on the ball now he would be booked. The blank page of his autobiography entitled "What the average director knows about football" would trigger a disrepute charge.