City’s express ride towards the summit of the Premier League came to a juddering halt at Villa Park.
Despite dominating possession and virtually every other statistic the Blues came second in the one that really counts – the goal tally.
It was the fifth defeat this season in the Barclays Premier League and leaves City in third behind Arsenal and you know who.
It could take Roberto Mancini some time to work out just how his side left the Midlands empty handed after they bossed the game for the entire ninety minutes but lacked a cutting edge.
It is not often that a side languishing in the foothills of the Premier League can afford to fork out in excess of £20million for a striker but that is what the Midlands side did earlier in the week in a bid to exit a relegation scrap that drags in more combatants on a weekly basis.
Villa’s capture of Darren Bent from Sunderland showed their determination to climb out of hole of their own making after a poor start to the campaign and they received an instant return as he scored the game’s only goal.
It was the second time Bent had scored the winner against City this season having potted the penalty that saw the Blues lose 1-0 at Sunderland.
Bent’s arrival threw up the intriguing sight of two new boys leading their respective lines and drew inevitable comparisons.
How would Bent, a tried and trusted Premier League regular used to the pace and power of the English League match up to the Blues new boy Edin Dzeko, rusty from a month’s inactivity whilst German football slumbered through the winter but hailed as a future world star?
The answer was on this occasion a win for Bent though he saw precious little of the ball other than when he scored.
After a week in which there were publicised exchanges of words between Villa chief Gerard Houllier and both Ian Holloway at Blackpool and Steve Bruce at Sunderland the Frenchman was probably delighted to get into the dugout
He was even happier that his side’s leaky defence held firm against a late onslaught.
Carlos Tevez missed the best chance of the opening quarter when Aleks Kolarov’s corner went through his legs a yard from goal.
The Blues paid an immediate high price when they sloppily gave the ball away in midfield and then Joe Hart failed to deal with Young’s shot before Bent followed up to score on his debut reacting quicker than Kolarov to the keeper’s save.
Barry skimmed a coat of paint from the post with a header from Boateng’s cross but the response to going behind was tepid in the first instance.
Possession totalling 66% in the opening half led to eight corners but Friedel didn’t have to make save. That will have disappointed the manager.
There were subtle changes at the break with Silva attempting to stretch Villa by playing a little wider and Dzeko moved further left but still Friedel was singularly underworked.
That is until just after the hour when he blocked a low fizzer from Boateng. Unlike the home side, City had no one to snaffle up the rebound.
It is six years since City won away from home after being behind at the break and despite almost playing 4-2-4 at one point never looked likely to erase that sad stat from the history books.
A point though always seemed within their grasp but the ball simply would not go in the net. Tevez had a shot blocked by Collins and a beauty from DeJong was deflected onto the post by Clarke’s bottom.
It was that kind of evening!