The only discomfort Roberto Mancini felt came in the form of the bang on the head that required him to watch a significant part of this game with an icepack held against his crown. "The dugout here is very dangerous," the Manchester City manager winced afterwards, but otherwise this was a pain-free evening for his team, beating the Spaniards for the second time in two weeks to invigorate hope of qualifying for the knockout phase.

City have now moved ahead of Napoli, defeated 3-2 at Bayern Munich, into second position in Group A and can plan ahead to their assignment with the Italians on 22 November with a renewed sense of confidence. Stadio San Paolo, with almost 60,000 impassioned Neapolitans shoehorned inside, will be a far more daunting proposition than El Madrigal but City are increasingly showing they are intrepid travellers. They will qualify if they can win and after taking a solitary point from their first two games, they deserve credit for keeping their nerve in challenging circumstances.

Villarreal were obliging opponents and will almost certainly finish with the group's wooden spoon, having not taken a single point so far, but there was still something impressively professional and disciplined about the way City ran out easy winners, with two goals from Yaya Touré sandwiching the penalty from Mario Balotelli that gave them a 2-0 first-half lead. After scoring three or more times in eight of their first 10 Premier League fixtures they have now found the trick in Europe, even with Sergio Agüero given the night off until the 74th minute.

This is a team bristling with a rare form of confidence. There was also the sense that City might actually be holding something back, only sporadically touching the heights that have taken them to the top of the Premier League.

The truth is they did not have to be at their very best because Villarreal, currently 13th in La Liga, looked a disjointed side and this was an opportune moment to meet them, with a full-blown injury crisis afflicting Juan Carlos Garrido's squad. They had eight regular players missing, and there was the clear sense that the Spaniards' luck was out. They were, in other words, ripe to be beaten and City did so with a clinical performance.

After a quiet start, the game turned in city's favour on the half-hour, when David Silva worked the ball through to Touré, just inside the penalty area, and the Ivorian eluded the nearest defender, Gonzalo Rodríguez, with an ease that is uncommon at this level of competition. Touré took a touch to steady himself before side-footing the ball past the goalkeeper, Diego López, and from that point onwards there was never any sense that City would relinquish their winning position.

Villarreal had acquitted themselves ably two weeks earlier but here there was never a prolonged spell when Joe Hart's goal was put under sustained pressure and once Balotelli had made it 2-0, the City supporters in the most vertiginous part of the stadium were entitled to conclude that their team were in the process of establishing themselves in an increased position of strength.

Balotelli had flickered only sporadically until this point but the way he slipped the ball through José Catalá's legs to get into the penalty area told of a man playing with great confidence. Mateo Musacchio was guilty of leading with a forearm as he and Rodríguez both tried to beat Balotelli to the ball and, after picking himself up, the striker nonchalantly scored the penalty despite a laser pen being shone into his face from behind López's net.

It was his seventh goal in as many games and the pity is that it provoked a depressing yet now familiar reaction from the Villarreal crowd. Spain my have some of the most refined players on the planet but the nation's football fans continue to undermine it with the frequency with which they are willing to resort to racist abuse.

Mostly, however, the Villarreal supporters were frustrated with their own team. City's dominance continued in the second half and after 71 minutes Balotelli led a counterattack on the left, sweeping a pass into Touré's path as the midfielder strode down the middle. He stepped inside one challenge and finished emphatically.

By that stage David Silva had left the pitch with a bang to the back, but Mancini reported it is "not serious" and said the player should be available to face QPR on Saturday. The manager should also pass a late fitness test. "They need to change the bench here," he said, rubbing his head. "Exactly the same happened when I came here with Inter five years ago."