These are the sort of tests that champions pass. Tottenham Hotspur went into this game rejuvenated and unbeaten in the Premier League under Tim Sherwood and determined to make a statement of their own in the race for Champions League football. City, though, never looked like doing anything other than win, thereby extending their unbeaten run in all competitions to 20 matches and jumping to the top of the table.
Tottenham were their equals during the second half of the first half but City ruthlessly exploited the decision of the officials to dismiss Danny Rose after 49 minutes for a tackle on Edin Dzeko and also award a penalty against him. Rose did appear to touch the ball first but nobody in sky blue cared, as Yaya Touré scored from the spot and Dzeko put the points to bed shortly afterwards.
The first half had been shaped by a Sergio Agüero masterclass, in which the Argentina striker scored one and went close on other occasions before he felt his hamstring on 44 minutes and limped off. That was the blot on City's evening. But the positives washed over it. Some of City's football was beautiful and there was a first league goal for the substitute Stevan Jovetic as they closed out their latest rout.
Tottenham showed spirit. They complained about the decision to disallow Michael Dawson's far-post finish on 36 minutes for offside against him or Emmanuel Adebayor, while they fumed about the penalty/red card one-two punch. But there could be no doubt about which was the superior team.
Sherwood called City the best in the country and up there with Bayern Munich and Barcelona in Europe, and the truly sobering thing was that the visitors could easily have matched their six-goal margin of victory over Tottenham at the Etihad in November. Confidence courses through this City team. They look to play their football first and worry about the opposition second and they battered Tottenham at the outset. David Silva was outstanding – does he ever have an off day? – and, when you have Agüero, one thing comes as standard.
The warning shot from him came in the fourth minute. Agüero received the ball from Fernandinho and left Dawson and then Vlad Chiriches in his wake before shooting against the far post. The worry in the home seats was palpable.
Agüero's deadlock-breaker was undercut by trademark explosiveness. The creation was straightforward, Vincent Kompany finding Silva and Silva rolling it into Agüero, who had broken away from Dawson and Rose. The angle was not friendly and Hugo Lloris was off his line quickly. But Agüero's touch was instinctive and the ball was on its way into the far corner.
Agüero seemed to be everywhere. His header from Gaël Clichy's cross drew a flying save from Lloris and he had another effort cleared off the line by Rose and then fired a third just over the crossbar. It was a pity that his evening ended early.
Tottenham treated the ball like a hot potato in the first 20 minutes but they showed their showed character to fight back. City were not infallible in defence – one Christian Eriksen corner sparked flutters - and Touré had two head rushes that landed him in trouble. Having raked Mousa Dembélé to earn a booking, he tripped Rose to flirt with disaster. There was no second yellow.
Niggle crept in. Martin Demichelis went in on Adebayor and was booked, although he felt that the striker had left a boot in on him while Agüero thought Dawson had elbowed him. He had not. Tottenham failed to catch a break when Dawson turned home Eriksen's whipped free-kick; the captain may have been in an offside position while Adebayor, in the middle of the goal, was certainly in front of the last defender.
The game lurched again on further controversy. When Rose lunged in to halt Dzeko as the City striker went through, it looked, at first sighting, to be a reckless tackle but the replays showed it to be fair. Marriner appeared to take advice from his assistant Scott Ledger before pointing to the spot and Rose to the dressing-room.
City turned the screw. After Silva had wriggled and struck the post, Chiriches erred and presented Dzeko with a shooting opportunity that he lashed past Lloris. Tottenham's 10 men were game and the substitute Étienne Capoue scored at the second attempt following a corner. But, after Jovetic's deflected shot had beaten Lloris, Kompany had the final word when he turned home after Dzeko's effort had hit Nabil Bentaleb.