Balotelli strike helps City crush Villa

Man City 4 Aston Villa 1

Mario Balotelli did his best to prove to manager Roberto Mancini that he is his number one striker as his stunning goal helped Manchester City on their way to a crushing win over Aston Villa that handed them the outright leadership of the Barclays Premier League.

Given the chance to lead the line for a second straight game, the 21-year-old, a £24million signing from Inter Milan last summer, thrived on the responsibility and his sumptuous first-half overhead kick brought his side to life after a sterile opening.

With Villa's resistance broken, Adam Johnson, Vincent Kompany and James Milner added second-half goals and Owen Hargreaves came on for his Premier League debut on a near-perfect afternoon for City, who pulled two points clear of cross-city rivals United ahead of next weekend's Manchester derby. Stephen Warnock netted a consolation for Villa.

Balotelli's goal was complemented by an industrious performance all over the pitch, reminiscent of his showing in the 4-0 win over Blackburn before the international break, with the Italian finally starting to look a more mature performer.

Having been relegated to a bit-part role owing to the form of City's other strikers and his own on- and off-field controversies, Balotelli is perhaps one of the few to benefit from the ongoing saga surrounding Carlos Tevez - the Argentinian missing again as his club continue to deal with his alleged refusal to play against Bayern Munich.

And with eight-goal Sergio Aguero injured and Edin Dzeko, Samir Nasri and David Silva all on the bench as Mancini made four changes, Balotelli had another chance to impress and took it, as Villa lost their unbeaten start to the season at the eighth hurdle.

Alex McLeish's men, who included former City favourites Richard Dunne, Shay 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 Micah 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 limped off 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 to Milner who found the top corner from the edge of the box against his former club.

Silva, on for Toure, then went close after more impressive work from Balotelli, before 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.

PA

Voices
voices
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
arts + ents
Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth GamesJust 48 hours earlier cyclist was under the care of a doctor
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
arts + entsFilmmaker posted a picture of Israeli actress Gal Gadot on Twitter
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel
arts + entsPrince Oberyn nearly sets himself on fire with a flaming torch
News
Danny Nickerson, 6, has received 15,000 cards and presents from well-wishers around the world
newsDanny loves to see his name on paper, so his mother put out a request for cards - it went viral
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
News
Orville and Keith Harris. He covered up his condition by getting people to read out scripts to him
People
Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana stars in this summer's big hope Guardians of the Galaxy
filmHollywood's summer blockbusters are no longer money-spinners
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Life and Style
Workers in Seattle are paid 100 times as much as workers in Bangladesh
fashionSeattle company lets customers create their own clothes, then click 'buy' and wait for delivery
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

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried