City top but now comes the hard part

Manchester City 4 Aston Villa 1

Queen Victoria was on the throne when Manchester City last began a league season with seven wins and a draw. As it happens, their Victorian forebears fell short in that 1897-98 campaign, missing promotion to the top flight by one place, and perhaps leading some mutton-chopped Mancunian to mutter "Typical City" for the first time.

City's prospects of avoiding another anti-climax certainly look rosy after the way they equalled that 114-year record by dismantling a hitherto unbeaten Aston Villa, their 4-1 victory taking them above Manchester United at the Premier League summit – the perfect fillip before a key Champions League meeting with Villarreal, then Sunday's derby at Old Trafford.

According to manager Roberto Mancini, there is a belief in the City camp that they can stay top though he recognised that there were "another 30 games" to play. "We work for this and we want to stay there for a long time if possible." City have not been in a title race since the 1970s but Mancini has, twice steering Internazionale to the Serie A crown – the first time by 22 points, the second occasion after pipping Roma on the final day. He is happy to lead from the front. "I prefer to be there all season with [a lead of] six, seven points but it is important to be there after the last game in May," he said.

If the Premier League table makes pleasing reading for City, this is not the case in the Champions League where they sit third in Group A before facing bottom-placed Villarreal tomorrow. Another slip-up, after drawing with Napoli and losing at Bayern Munich, could prove fatal but Mancini retains a sanguine outlook, having qualified from such a position before, with Inter in 2006-07. "If we beat Villarreal we can go for first place, not just for second. At Inter we lost our first two games, [but] we went to [Bayern] Munich for the last game with a chance to win the group."

The manager will have Sergio Aguero available tomorrow though the Argentine's absence was not felt on Saturday. With Edin Dzeko, David Silva and Samir Nasri on the bench after their international exertions, Mancini gave Mario Balotelli, James Milner and Adam Johnson the chance to shine and all took it. Balotelli stole the headlines with the acrobatic overhead kick that put City on their way to a ninth successive home league win. His fourth goal in as many games earned Mancini's praise though the red marks that Shay Given showed on his stomach after a second-half challenge from his old team-mate might explain the rejoinder that: "Mario can change in every moment."

It was a good afternoon too for Milner who capped a fine display with City's fourth, a wonderfully precise curler from outside the box. The Villa manager, Alex McLeish, lamented the goals that had gone before which he put down to "amateur defending". Villa scorer Stephen Warnock's missed clearance let in Johnson for City's second while McLeish complained that Balotelli and Vincent Kompany both had too much space to score from Johnson corners.

"I don't think it is too difficult to spot what we had to learn today," he said. "We must defend better at corner-kicks. When we ask people to pick up a man, they must pick them up."

Scorers: Manchester City Balotelli 28, A Johnson 47, Kompany 52, Milner 71. Aston Villa Warnock 65.

Substitutes: Manchester City K Touré 6 (Richards, 66), Silva 6 (Y Touré, 66), Hargreaves (A Johnson, 77). Aston Villa N'Zogbia 5 (Ireland, 55), Bannan 6 (Heskey, 63), Albrighton (Delph, 76).

Booked: Manchester City Barry. Aston Villa Bannan.

Man of the match Balotelli Match rating 7/10.

Possession: Manchester City 53% Aston Villa 47%.

Attempts on target: Manchester City 10 Aston Villa 6.

Referee C Foy (Manchester). Attendance 47,019.

Sport
Brendan Rodgers is confident that Sterling will put pen to paper on a new deal at Anfield
footballLIVE: Follow all the latest from tonight's Capital One quarter-finals
Voices
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Voices
Jimmy Mubenga died after being restrained on an aircraft by G4S escorts
voicesJonathan Cox: Tragedy of Jimmy Mubenga highlights lack of dignity shown to migrants
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Life and Style
tech
News
Not quite what they were expecting
news

When teaching the meaning of Christmas backfires

Arts and Entertainment
Angelina Jolie and Sony Pictures co-chairman Amy Pascal at the Golden Globes in 2011
film
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

Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser
'Enhanced interrogation techniques?' When language is distorted to hide state crimes

Robert Fisk on the CIA 'torture report'

Once again language is distorted in order to hide US state wrongdoing
Radio 1’s new chart host must placate the Swifties and Azaleans

Radio 1 to mediate between the Swifties and Azaleans

New chart host Clara Amfo must placate pop's fan armies
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

The head of Veterans Aid on how his charity is changing perceptions of ex-servicemen and women in need
Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

Its use is always wrong and, despite CIA justifications post 9/11, the information obtained from it is invariably tainted, argues Patrick Cockburn
Rebranding Christmas: More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence

Rebranding Christmas

More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence. They are missing the point, and we all need to grow up
A Greek island - yours for the price of a London flat

A sun-kissed island - yours for the price of a London flat

Cash-strapped Greeks are selling off their slices of paradise
Pogues could enjoy fairytale Christmas No 1 thanks to digital streaming

Pogues could enjoy fairytale Christmas No 1 thanks to digital streaming

New system means that evergreen songs could top the festive charts
Prince of Wales: Gruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence

Prince of Wales: Gruff Rhys

He is a musician of wondrous oddity. He is on a perpetual quest to seek the lost tribes of the Welsh diaspora. Just don't ask Gruff Rhys if he's a national treasure...