Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola called match-winner Bernardo Silva "the best" after his stunning goal sealed victory at Aston Villa.
The midfielder's sensational volley and Ruben Dias’ opener earned City a 2-1 win on Wednesday. Ollie Watkins pulled a goal back for the hosts, who made the champions work in the second half, but they could not find a leveller.
City sit second in the Premier League, a point behind Chelsea and one ahead of Liverpool and Guardiola heaped praised on Bernardo for helping them maintain the pace.
- Aston Villa 1-2 Man City - Match report and highlights
- How the teams lined up | Match stats
- Premier League table | Fixtures
“He is the best," Guardiola said. "He was the best two or three seasons ago. He was the best then too. He has a special ability to do whatever he wants with the ball. Against a good goalkeeper it was an incredible finish.
“You have to go back to when we won with 98 points, review the videos, you will see the same player like this right now.
“To come here against this opposition, I was really impressed with who they are, and to be able to beat them is an incredible step for us.
“The importance is being there [at the top]. We’ve had an incredibly tough first part of the league, we are there one point behind. The important thing is the way we are performing, the way we are performing is a high level.”
Pep: Grealish was perfect
Jack Grealish made his first Villa Park return since his £100m move to City as a late substitute and was given a mixed reception by the home fans.
Guardiola added: “He gave us what we needed. He was perfect.
"His touch was a new quality and every time he took the ball he didn’t lose the ball."
City dominated the first half and Dias deservedly opened the scoring when he fired in Raheem Sterling’s cutback after 27 minutes.
Villa struggled with the visitors’ slick passing and failed to make a dent before Bernardo made the points safe two minutes before the break.
It was another goal to add to City’s scrapbook under Guardiola as Riyad Mahrez and Joao Cancelo played their way out of danger on the edge of their own area and found Fernandinho. His first-time pass sent Gabriel Jesus clear to cross for Bernardo who slammed a brilliant volley into the top corner from 18 yards.
City were breathtaking; Bernardo's strike one of the best
Clinton Morrison on Soccer Special:
"In the second half, Aston Villa were good. Whatever Steven Gerrard said to them at half-time, there was a big response and they got back into it thanks to Ollie Watkins' well-worked goal.
"However, first half, Manchester City were breathtaking. They are an outstanding football team. When they get it right and play the one or two touch football, it's so brilliant to watch.
"And Bernardo Silva, for me, at this moment, he's one of the best midfielders in the Premier League. His goal is one of the best goals ever. "
Gerrard: It was a terrific reaction
Villa needed a response and got one two minutes into the second half when Watkins fired Douglas Luiz’s corner in off the post.
It gave the hosts belief and Steven Gerrard’s side improved dramatically, refusing to let City coast to victory.
Jesus should have done better than to slice over after controlling Bernardo’s cross before Ederson ensured the points 15 minutes from time. Emi Buendia slipped in Carney Chukwuemeka who only had the goalkeeper to beat but shot too close to the Brazil international, who turned the ball over.
“It terms of the second half I thought we were outstanding. We scared City because we were so close to taking something from the game,” said boss Gerrard after his first defeat in charge.
“It was a terrific reaction from the players and I told them not to leave this stadium with their heads down at all.
“City started very so well, we have to respect what we are playing against but I thought we were in a bit of a shell for 10-15 minutes.
“It’s on me to prove to the supporters I am the right man and there is hope and belief we can move forward and have successful and good memories together. It was an acid test and a true reflection of where we are and where we want to get to.”
Opta stats: Guardiola brings up 150 wins at Man City...
- Aston Villa have now picked up just one point in their last 10 Premier League matches against Manchester City (D1 L9), losing their last six in a row by an aggregate score 19-3.
- Since the start of October, only Chelsea (20) have won more points in the Premier League than Manchester City (19: W6 D1 L1).
- Pep Guardiola tonight 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 Sir Alex Ferguson's record at Man Utd who celebrated his 150th win in his 247th match.
- 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).
- Bernardo Silva has scored four goals in his last seven Premier League appearances, as many as in his previous 55 for Manchester City.
Live Renault Super Sunday
Aston Villa now host Leicester on Super Sunday at 4.30pm, live on Sky Sports Premier League, while Man City are at Watford on Saturday Night Football at 5.30pm, also live on Sky Sports Premier League.