Aston Villa 1-2 Man City: Dias and Silva seal win on Grealish’s return

Indeed, dreams of a three-horse title race also involving Liverpool remain alive following goals from Ruben Dias and Bernando Silva before Ollie Watkins halved the deficit.

Silva’s first-half screamer added to Dias’ opener and had the champions in cruise control before Watkins’ goal after the break made life uncomfortable.

Jack Grealish was a late substitute on his first return to Villa Park since his £100million summer move to the Etihad to earn a mixed reception.

Chelsea’s 2-1 win at Watford made victory imperative for City and they sit a point behind the leaders in second.

Pep Guardiola, without injured Kevin De Bruyne and Ferran Torres and the banned Aymeric Laporte, had labelled his selection issues an “emergency” but he was still able to call on Phil Foden, Grealish and Cole Palmer to man the bench.

That other substitutes Luke Mbete, Romeo Lavia, Josh Wilson-Esbrand and James McAtee had just five senior appearances between them mattered little thanks to a merciless first-half which did the damage.

The visitors dominated from the start, playing exclusively in Villa’s half, and Emi Martinez needed to be alert to beat Joao Cancelo’s near-post drive behind inside the first 60 seconds.

He turned Rodrigo’s shot over three minutes later and City executed their high-level possession game perfectly – until they needed Dias to bail them out after 10 minutes.

John McGinn sent Watkins scampering down the left the ball was eventually smuggled to Leon Bailey but Dias’ last-ditch block denied him.

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