Manchester City book FA Cup quarter-final place

Manchester City 3 Aston Villa 0

Manchester City are just a home win over Reading away from their first FA Cup semi-final since 1981 after a thumping victory over Aston Villa.

Gerard Houllier must bear the brunt of the Villa fans' ire after making eight changes to his latest Premier League starting line-up for a game against talented but tired opponents, with lower-league opposition the prize for victory.



None of this will bother City fans, who can once again think about ending 35 years without a trophy thanks to a fourth-minute opener from Yaya Toure and splendid efforts from Mario Balotelli and David Silva.



As City manager Roberto Mancini has been talking about how fatigued his players are at present, Houllier's team selection raised more than an eyebrow.



Showing improved form of late and inching clear of the relegation mire, the midlands outfit were expected to take the fight to their opponents.



Instead, Houllier made eight changes and left Ashley Young, Stewart Downing and Marc Albrighton on the bench, offering City a glimmer of hope their talent did not require.



When the two sides met in league combat on this ground in December, the Blues made a flying start. So they did again.



Villa were unfortunate in the sense Patrick Vieira's fourth-minute header struck Ciaran Clark after Aleksandar Kolarov had swung in a corner. The bounce fell perfectly for Toure, who duly smashed home from three yards.



Villa did rally, with Gabriel Agbonlahor going close, but suddenly the energy that appeared sapped from City legs at the weekend returned.



Balotelli could not exactly be described as enthusiastic. Economy of effort seems to be the Italian's mantra.



However, the 20-year-old is a supreme talent and his superb reading of Toure's through-ball allowed him to streak clear of the Villa defence after 25 minutes.



Confidence is not a problem for the former Inter Milan star either, judging by the nonchalant manner in which he lifted a shot into the roof of the net with Brad Friedel powerless to stop it.



It was the striker's 10th goal in 18 eventful games for the Blues and Mancini must have felt fully vindicated in his decision to leave both Carlos Tevez and Edin Dzeko on the bench.



What must have been worrying though was the sight of Balotelli ruefully rubbing his right knee, which carried on for the remainder of the half, given he has already been sidelined for extended periods twice this season with a problem in the same area.



After a suitable period for dramatic effect, Balotelli emerged for the second half.



He hung around for a further 15 minutes, during which time he took on the unaccustomed role of peacemaker in a feud between Toure and former City skipper Richard Dunne and also, completely needlessly, swiped an arm into Herd's face to pick up a yellow card.



Balotelli can be accused of many things. Being dull is not among them.



The same could also be said of Silva, who has even eclipsed Tevez as City's outstanding performer this season.



And when Clark made the fatal mistake of nodding Pablo Zabaleta's cross into the Spaniard's path, the result, a blistering shot into the bottom corner, was entirely predictable.



Beaten and bruised, there seemed no obvious reason for Houllier to go through with his plan to introduce Young and Downing when the possibility of injury was the only thing on offer.



The Frenchman must have taken a sharp intake of breath when Young limped away from one challenge too, although the England man was able to continue.



City were in command though.



Tevez thundered a shot into Friedel's chest after Kolarov had fired wide from long-range, then the Argentina star was thwarted by the American once more as his fruitless hunt for a goal continued.



Having started to abandon thoughts of victory from the moment they became aware of Houllier's team, the Villa fans amused themselves with an impromptu game of headers with the ball Young used to fire a free-kick over the bar.



City were already looking ahead to Reading's arrival on March 13.

Sport
Club legend Paul Scholes is scared United could disappear into 'the wilderness'
football
News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Sport
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Rodgers showered praise on Balotelli last week, which led to speculation he could sign the AC Milan front man
transfers
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music(who aren't Arctic Monkeys)
News
Lizards, such as Iguanas (pictured), have a unique pattern of tissue growth
science
Extras
indybest
News
Anna Nicole Smith died of an accidental overdose in 2007
people
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tvReview: Bread-making skills of the Bake Off hopefuls put to the test
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home