When his team needed him most, Yaya Touré ensured Manchester City issued a statement of intent with their seventh straight win.
In pouring rain, the Mancunians’ unconvincing away form in the Premier League looked to have resurfaced when Wilfried Bony capped Swansea’s first-half dominance by cancelling out Fernandinho’s early strike.
But Touré was the catalyst to a second-half recovery with his 12th of the season before Aleksandar Kolarov ensured the visitors kicked off the new year in impressive form to keep the pressure on their title rivals at the start of a month that could go some way to shaping their pursuit of a domestic treble.
The Manchester City manager, Manuel Pellegrini, said: “Yaya was very important because he scored the second goal in the right moment. It was maybe the best moment for Swansea who grew after their goal and we knew it would be difficult for us.
“But the team had the character to change it. That character is very important because we dropped too many points away at the beginning of the season. It’s not good for this team to win just 11 points out of 27 in the first half of the season. So winning the first game away [of the new year], against a very difficult team, is very important for us.”
Touré added: “We continue to fight until the end for the team and the club and we want to win this trophy. If we continue likes this at the end of the season we can be really happy.”
Swansea deserved more than a sixth league game in a row without victory, not least for two high-quality strikes by Bony which he later dedicated to a friend who recently died from cancer.
Michael Laudrup, the Swansea manager, said: “He [Bony] scored two goals, but with his movement as well, it was by far the best performance from him as a Swansea player. If he can do it against Vincent Kompany and Matija Nastasic then he can do it against anyone.”
Bony twice had Joe Hart at full stretch at the start and end of a first half dominated by Swansea, despite the setback of Fernandinho’s early goal and the departure of midfielder Pablo Hernandez to injury.
It was fitting that World Cup year should kick off with a Brazilian scoring the first Premier League goal of 2014. Samir Nasri’s corner was nudged into the path of the on-rushing Fernandinho, who scored through a crowd of white jerseys. Yet Swansea recovered and proved they were more than a match for their opponents’ flowing football.
Jonjo Shelvey, Jonathan De Guzman and Angel Rangel were all at the end of sweeping moves but Swansea failed to capitalise. Such was the home side’s ambition and confidence that even centre-backs Chico Flores and Ashley Williams surged forward with Manchester City reeling.
Swansea got the rub of the green when Bony drifted between Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta to head home de Guzman’s floated cross. The striker was marginally offside but the goal was the least he – and Swansea – deserved.
Half-time brought relief for Pellegrini and his team emerged refreshed, smothering Swansea’s playmakers to regain the initiative.
Touré got the visitors back on the front foot. The giant central midfielder was like Gulliver chasing the Lilliputians in the first half but Swansea struggled to maintain the tempo and Touré was imperious after the break with his strength and touch. He used both to put his side back in front on 57 minutes when he shrugged off Jose Canas to give himself time to unleash a shot that deflected off Williams past Gerhard Tremmel.
That was unfortunate but the German goalkeeper should have done better nine minutes later to prevent Kolarov plundering a third, to settle the contest. Kolarov out-muscled Wayne Routledge before sauntering 40 yards to fire a shot that had too much power for Tremmel.
Opposite number Hart also wobbled when he utterly misjudged a corner but Williams failed to connect. Hart could do little when Bony struck another thunder-bolt in injury time. The Ivory Coast striker, who revealed an “RIP Anouk” message on his shirt, dedicated his double to a close friend who recently died of cancer. Bony said: “It has been a very emotional time for me.”
Swansea (4-3-3): Tremmel 6; Rangel 6, Flores 6, Williams 6, Davies 7; Canas 6, de Guzman 6, Shelvey 6 (Pozuelo 81 5); Hernandez 4 (Lamah 9 6), Bony 7, Routledge 5.
Subs not used: Zabret, Amat, Taylor, Tiendalli, Vazquez.
Booked: Canas, Shelvey
Man City (4-4-2): Hart 6; Zabaleta 6, Kompany 7, Nastasic 6, Kolarov 7; Navas 6 (Rodwell 89 5), Fernandinho 6, Yaya Toure 8, Nasri 6 (Milner 69 6); Negredo 6 (Garcia 596), Dzeko 7
Subs not used: Pantilimon, Lescott, Clichy, Boyata
Booked: Nasri, Dzeko, Kompany, Milner
Man of the Match: Yaya Toure (Man City)
Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire)
Match rating: 8/10