Manchester City 3 Aston Villa 1

Vassell comes back to haunt Villa as City climb to fourth

Pearce described Vassell's blossoming partnership with Andrew Cole, who added a third in the 82nd minute to quash any prospect of a belated Villa recovery, as the Laurel and Hardy of the top flight, "they complement each other perfectly only without the humour". Yet City have plenty of reason to laugh these days, and not only at the malaise of their bitter rivals, with astute management, a potent attack and a productive youth system that honed three-quarters of their industrious midfield last night offering grounds for genuine optimism.

"I still think we can get much better," said Pearce. "I am reasonably pleased with where we are at the moment but with the run of play I still feel we could have been unbeaten this season and we know we can play much better."

Vassell may not have left Villa Park in a deal worth £2m this summer amid much acrimony, but he played with the intent and passion of a scorned striker here and was welcomed with several gifts by his former employers, beginning after only 210 seconds when Jlloyd Samuel headed the ball over his advancing goalkeeper Stuart Taylor and presented his old team-mate with the easiest of his five City goals this season.

It was a suitable Halloween moment for Villa manager David O'Leary, who must have anticipated the worst when his first-choice goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen injured his back in the warm-up and thus forced a debut upon the former Arsenal reserve.

Worse was to come for the visitors in the 26th minute when Cole and Vassell combined superbly for the latter to volley beyond Taylor after an exquisite chip from his strike partner who, after Liam Ridgewell had scrambled in a 65th-minute goal, made the contest safe with a deflected shot over Taylor eight minutes from time.

O'Leary insisted there were no excuses for the defeat. "We gifted Manchester City their goals and that has been the problem since day one this season. We are not good enough to give teams such a big advantage," he said, before going on to use the possible £64m takeover by the Comer Homes Group as a reason for his current problems.

"It has been a very unsettling period," he added. "Rumours and rumours, talk and talk, but we are not getting any information. I hope something happens or doesn't happen soon because it is very unsettling and it doesn't help you concentrate on the football side. The first I heard about it was on Sunday morning like everyone else. It could be exciting for the club, it depends what comes with it." A few new defenders would not go amiss.

Manchester City (4-4-2): James; Mills, Sommeil (Jihai, h-t), Distin, Jordan; Croft (Sibierski, 69), Ireland, Barton, Musampa; Vassell, Cole (Wright-Phillips, 85). Substitutes not used: Richards, De Vlieger (gk).

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Taylor; Delaney, Mellberg, Ridgewell, Samuel (Berger, h-t; Djemba-Djemba, 75); Milner, Davis, McCann, Barry; Moore (Bakke, 71), Phillips. Substitutes not used: De la Cruz.

Referee: D Gallagher (Oxfordshire).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable