City twice threw the lead away at Villa Park to lose 3-2 to Aston Villa who performed something close to a smash and grab raid on their own pitch.
The defeat means City have taken just one point from a possible nine on their travels this season – a worrying statistic given the opposition have been, with respect, Cardiff, Stoke and Villa.
Spurs’ 1-1 draw with Chelsea earlier in the day meant City knew they could top the table – briefly at least – with three points against Villa.
With the hosts’ precarious home record – three losses from three games – plus the Blues’ recent red-hot form in the Premier League and various cup competitions, the bookies made the visitors strong favourites to head back up the M6 with all three points.
The opening half-hour was spent almost entirely in the Villa half with City dominant in possession and creating numerous chances, but the end product was missing with either the final pass going astray or crosses finding touch or the gloves of Brad Guzan.
...Villa 3 City 2...
In contrast, Villa were wasteful when they had the ball and ineffective in attack and they were finally punished on the stroke of half-time.
City shifted up a gear and Ciaran Clark came within a whisker of putting an Aleks Kolarov cross into his net and then a combination of Toure and Dzeko saw the ball cleared off the line – all within 60 seconds – until the breakthrough finally came.
Toure saw a sizzling low deflected shot go inches wide of the post moments before the Blues’ ninth corner of the half fell to the Ivorian who side-footed a volley past Guzan to at last break the deadlock.
The big man just can’t stop scoring at the moment – that was his sixth of the season and fourth goal in successive matches - but there was to be a dramatic second period that was completely at odds with what gone before.
Barely six minutes after the re-start Villa were level with their first real attack of any note – though TV replays suggested it shouldn’t have stood as Leandro Bacuna played the ball in behind the Blues’ defence and Karim El Ahmadi – marginally offside – hit a low drive past Joe Hart to level the scores.
Villa’s tail wagged briefly but City were back in front within six minutes as Samir Nasri’s corner was headed home by Dzeko who glanced the ball powerfully past Guzan on 57 minutes to make it 2-1.
Then the impressive Alvaro Negredo sent a stinging volley goalwards two minutes later that Guzan somehow scrambled out as the Blues looked to kill the game off – but Villa fought back again and once more, the referee seemed to be lenient with his decision to award a questionable free-kick on the edge of the box that Bacuna planted home with a free-kick even Yaya would have been proud of.
Quite how Villa were still in the game by that point was a mystery - but there was worse to come just two minutes later as Guzan’s long goal-kick caught the Blues’ defence napping and Andreas Weimann nipped in to beat the on-rushing Hart with no more than a toe-poke that trickled over the line.
Two goals conceded in two gut-wrenching minutes - it was hard to stomach considering Villa had been so poor going forward previously, but a lesson for City who had enjoyed enough possession to have put the game to bed long before.
Manuel Pellegrini will demand a much-improved display against Bayern Munich on Wednesday night when the Blues will need to be at their very best. As for this game, you couldn’t help feel that three points had been gifted to Paul Lambert’s side.