Man City go top as livid Villa proved wrong over controversial goal complaints

Manchester City relied on some Silva service to sink Aston Villa in the rain and charge to the top of the table.

But the only colour Villa boss Dean Smith could see was red after getting himself sent off at the Etihad for abusing referee Jon Moss.

Smith was livid that Rodri had come from an off-side position to dispossess Tyron Mings in the build-up to Bernardo's stunning strike on 79 minutes and was ordered to the stands, although replays showed the England star had touched the ball to create a new phase of play.

Ilkay Gundogan completed the win from the penalty spot in the final minute of normal time as City made it six straight league wins and a sweet 16 unbeaten in all competitions.

Guardiola made three changes and recalled Joao Cancelo, Rodri and Phil Foden at the expense of Oleksandr Zinchenko, Fernandinho and Gabriel Jesus as his side looked to extend their long unbeaten run.

Smith, meanwhile, admitted he was just glad to get out of the house as his first team made their first appearance since New Year's Day due to the Covid outbreak at the club.

In that time their opponents had hit top form to become major factors in the title race.

But at least the enforced break had given Smith the chance to get Ross Barkley fit again – and the England international was recalled in place of Anwar El Ghazi.

Jack Grealish was pleased to be back in action and couldn't stop smiling as he lined up in the tunnel before kick-off.

Silva should have wiped it off his face within four minutes, but somehow missed from point-blank range before Villa scrambled the loose ball behind for a corner.

It was an ominous sign and City poured forward with wave after wave of attacks, with Cancelo firing high and wide and both Foden and Rodri seeing powerful shots blocked.

Villa didn't threaten until nine minutes before half time when Barkley's curling shot brought a good save from Ederson.

City's frustrations scaled new heights when a great break from Kevin De Bruyne teed up Foden, but his shot was blocked by Matty Cash before Cancelo saw a shot skim the crossbar.

Guardiola's mood was not improved on the hour mark when De Bruyne went off with a thigh problem.

The game opened up, with Gundogan firing wide at one end and Douglas Luiz seeing a piledriver well saved at the other as the chances continued to be wasted.

But then Silva stepped up to the plate, before Gundogan punished Matt Cash's handball to continue City's march towards another title.

Guardiola allowed his 50th birthday on Monday to pass without fuss – but his side are now creating a proper song and dance at the top of the table.

MANCHESTER CITY (4-3-3):Ederson 7; Walker 6 (Zinchenko 27, 6), Dias 7, Stones 7, Cancelo 8; De Bruyne 8 (Jesus 59, 7), Rodri 7, Gundogan 7; Sterling 6 (Mahrez 72), SILVA 9, Foden 7. Subs: Steffen, Torres, Mendy, Fernandinho, Mahrez, Garcia, Bernabe.

ASTON VILLA (4-2-3-1):Martinez 7; Cash 7, KONSA 8, Mings 7, Targett 7 (Taylor 75); Luiz 6, McGinn 7; Traore 7 (El Ghazi 68, 7), Grealish 7, Barkley 6 (Ramsey 68, 7); Watkins 6. Subs: Heaton, Nakamba, Engels, Guilbert, El Mohamady, Davis.

REFEREE:Jonathan Moss – 7

MOM:Bernardo Silva.

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