Manchester City kept pace at the top of the Premier League with a 2-1 win over Aston Villa as Jack Grealish managed only a late cameo against his former club.
Ruben Dias and Bernardo Silva put the visitors into the ascendancy with first-half strikes as City claimed their 11th win in 12 meetings with Villa.
Ollie Watkins halved the deficit after the interval prior to the introduction of Grealish, who returned to Villa Park for the first time since joining Pep Guardiola’s side for a British record £100million fee.
City remain a point behind leaders Chelsea, who triumphed 2-1 in their away fixture at Watford on Wednesday.
Rodri stung Emiliano Martinez’s hands as City dominated the opening stages before Leon Bailey saw a seemingly goal-bound effort blocked at the other end.
Dias then proved the unlikely first goalscorer with a deflected left-footed effort into the bottom-right corner following Raheem Sterling’s cutback to the edge of the area.
City doubled their lead on the stroke of half-time when Gabriel Jesus raced away on the counter and clipped across for Silva, who converted with an expert first-time volley.
Watkins pegged Guardiola’s team back as he hooked a low volley just inside the right-hand post from Douglas Luiz’s corner before Ezri Konsa poked narrowly wide amid claims for a penalty for a Nathan Ake foul.
Jesus looked to add a third but miscued a half-volley well over, while Ederson was required to deny Carney Chukwuemeka in excellent fashion as City held on for another victory.
What does it mean? City keep in pursuit of Chelsea
City have now won 13 of their past 15 Premier League meetings against Villa and Guardiola’s side remain a point behind Chelsea and one ahead of third-placed Liverpool after 14 games.
Meanwhile, Steven Gerrard – who was looking to become the first Villa boss to win all three of his opening games – sees his side left in 13th after being outclassed by the reigning champions.
Sterling and Silva shine
Silva has been in fine form for City in recent weeks, scoring four times in his past seven leagues appearances, as many as he had in his previous 55 in the competition.
But fellow attacker Sterling also shone as he laid on a joint-high five key passes – one of those the assist for Dias’ opener – in a classy creative showing.
City forward search remains prominent
City were in the market for Harry Kane as Guardiola searched for a striker in the last transfer window.
Jesus remains the sole nominal striker and the Brazil international failed to fire as only one of his game-high six attempts found the target and he produced a woeful second-half miss from Silva’s cross.
Key Opta Facts
– Aston Villa have now picked up just one point in their past 10 Premier League matches against Manchester City (D1 L9), losing their most recent six in a row by an aggregate score of 19-3.
– Steven Gerrard suffered only the fourth home league defeat in his entire managerial career (P61 W49 D8 L4) while this loss ended a 27-game unbeaten run at home in the league for Gerrard (W24 D3).
– Pep Guardiola earned his 150th Premier League win at Manchester City – only the fourth manager to reach this total for a single club. This win came in just his 204th match in the competition, beating Alex Ferguson’s record at Manchester United, who celebrated his 150th win in his 247th match.
– Ruben Dias scored only his second Premier League goal in his 45th appearance for Manchester City; his other came against West Ham in February.
City travel to Watford on Saturday, while Villa host Leicester City the following day.