Manchester City evidently have no need of Luis Suárez after all, or Mario Balotelli for that matter, though the defending champions did not brush Aston Villa aside quite as dismissively, and thus move to the top of the table, as the scoreline suggests. While Villa fell apart somewhat in the second half, they almost had a right to after two borderline penalty decisions went against them in quick succession, allowing City to turn a workaday 1-0 lead into something much more emphatic.
From that point City cut loose to the extent that even Scott Sinclair got some time on the field, while Villa's stout defending in the first half went unrewarded. Five goals to nil was not an unfair reflection of the match, it just flattered City's rather stolid attacking efforts before half-time. "We played well in the first half without getting any breaks," Roberto Mancini said. "The second half was better but we can still improve, and we will need to because we play Real Madrid next."
City could not be accused of lacking attacking commitment. Whatever their formation was supposed to be on paper it was effectively 4-2-4 on the pitch yet the home side did not have a great deal of end product to show for all their passing and possession. Once they realised City did not pack a direct punch Villa produced a couple of attacks and the first two saves of the game were made by Joe Hart, the first a reaction stop when Vincent Kompany almost put through his own goal, the second a fingertip save to claw away a header from Christian Benteke.
Even when City took the lead just before half-time it was with one of the scruffier goals they will score this season. Carlos Tevez brought a save from Brad Guzan with a low shot that the goalkeeper nudged on to a post, and from the resultant corner Kompany and Tevez tried and failed to get shots in before Silva arrived just ahead of Matija Nastasic in a pile-up of players to push the ball over the line.
If that was an underwhelming way for City to take the lead, the way they extended it was ludicrously soft. Yaya Touré had just missed at close range from a Silva corner and was in the process of sharing a joke with Ron Vlaar when the players' attention was drawn to the assistant referee indicating a penalty should be awarded. At that point no one else in the ground, including the referee, had a clue why, but Jon Moss was persuaded a handball had taken place and pointed to the spot, from where Sergio Agüero stroked the ball past Guzan.
Replays showed Andreas Weimann had jumped at the near post with an arm raised, but whether there was any contact with the ball was much less clear. Certainly none of the City players were complaining, which left just Paul Lambert to bemoan the matter. "It was a woeful decision, never a handball," the Villa manager said. "It was a big decision, we were still in the game at 1-0, and you have to get those right. You need to be 100% sure, and I don't see how he could have been."
Almost farcically, City were gifted a second penalty 12 minutes later, when Barry Bannan missed the ball with his feet but caught it with his trailing arm as he dived in to try to dispossess Silva. This time Tevez took the penalty and scored in a similar manner, before Agüero made his final contribution by cutting in from the right and beatingGuzan at his near post with a shot from a narrow angle.
If that was a goal that suggested Villa had become dispirited, no one could possibly blame them. More tired defending was in evidence when Tevez scored his second, tucking away Samir Nasri's cross after it had been allowed to reach him at the far post.
"The second penalty was harsh, but by then I hadn't a clue what the linesman was going to do next," Lambert said. "He'll be embarrassed when he sees Match of the Day, but he might not watch it. He'll probably have a night out."