City 5-0 Aston Villa

Alex Livesey

A record equalling victory saw City move back to the top of the Premier League.

In addition to moving to the top of the table for the first time this season, Saturday's 5-0 win over Aston Villa saw City tie a Premier League record. The win marked their 36th consecutive game unbeaten; impressive enough yet consider this: of the 36, City have won 33. The sort of return that will continue to sustain title challenges.

During this run City have had both emphatic and routine wins, but rarely - if at all - can one have combined for both in such fashion. The margin of victory was as large as a five goal win suggests it should be but at the same time there as a perfunctory air to it. It was not a particularly dazzling display, nor it will it I'd suggest live long in the memory and the sense was that we were all waiting for City to take the lead before sitting a little more comfortably and enjoying what was to follow.

It is credit largely to Villa that City had to wait until the end of first half to take the lead. For all the possession and territorial dominance, City's progress was for the most part checked. They were prowling the final third but unable to carve out the space or fashion the chance to move in for the kill (just five of 16 first half shots were on target) so it was maybe inevitable that a scramble following a corner saw David Silva put them a goal to the good.

With the lead at the half the expectation was that City would slip into cruise control and add one, maybe two more without much discomfort. The two sides met earlier in the season in the Capital One Cup and the lack of familiarity to this Villa side suggested a side more akin to that competition. Aside from a Christian Benteke header that was smartly dealt with by Joe Hart, the greatest difficulty City's keeper had to navigate was an effort from Vincent Kompany that almost did for him. Villa may have set their stall to attack on the counter but City's pressure afforded them little opportunity.

If the expectation then was that City were set for a comfortable second forty-five minutes surely no-one could have predicted how comfortable it would be, or more accurately, how this position would be obtained. Roberto Mancini may have worn a David Platt mask at Friday's press conference; he must be sorely tempted to reprise this but instead donning an Adrian Holmes mask. For it was he who handed City two penalties in a matter of minutes that signed, sealed and delivered the points. The second award would be deemed harsh but correct by the interpretation of the laws. The first, however, left everyone perplexed. Even the doyen of clarity that is Twitter struggled to provide an explanation. Certainly there were no appeals at pitch level but Sergio Aguero gratefully accepted this early Christmas gift to put City 2-0 ahead.

Whilst the decision was incorrect and certainly extinguished any hopes Villa had of forging a way back into the game, it was not the 'game changer' that the commentary team would have us believe. City do not make a habit of surrendering half-time leads and certainly not against sides as bashful as this Villa one. The merits of introducing replay to soccer gained further strength this weekend though.

City pressed home their advantage, aware perhaps that victories of this nature work wonders for form and there as a continual desire to add to their tally throughout the game, only taking their foot off the gas during the final minutes. Carlos Tevez added two welcome goals, Aguero evidenced once again his prowess at The Etihad (20 of his 28 goals have come at home) and David Silva got further minutes under his belt.

A scan over the fixture list underlines the fact that tougher tests undoubtedly lie ahead, but surprising (or perhaps not if you dig a little deeper) results elsewhere mean that City return to the summit for the first time this season.

Not a bad position to be in for a team who may now be coming into form at a very opportune time.

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