By Dan Harrison
Villa's hopes of finishing 2010 on a high were dented as Manchester City's star-studded side ran riot at Eastlands.
Mario Balotelli scored a hat-trick, which included two penalties, while Joleon Lescott found the net with a header on an afternoon to forget for the boys in claret and blue.
There was little the visitors could do to counter City's superiority in attack as Roberto Mancini's men temporarily leapfrogged close rivals Manchester United at the top of the Barclays Premier League.
The home side raced in to a two-goal lead within 13 minutes and never looked back from there, as Gerard Houllier's side slipped to their second defeat of the festive period.
Houllier restored club captain Stiliyan Petrov and midfield colleague Nigel Reo-Coker to the central ground in an attempt to bring added steel to the Villa ranks in the wake of the Boxing Day defeat to Tottenham.
It meant Fabian Delph and Jonathan Hogg gave way, while Barry Bannan replaced Emile Heskey who twisted his ankle against Spurs.
But the manager's best laid plans were shattered by an extraordinary burst of three City goals in the opening 26 minutes.
Balotelli got in behind Villa's back four early on only to be flagged offside - though it didn't deter the Italian.
He was given a second through ball to latch on to and this time he was tugged back by Eric Lichaj, leaving referee Michael Oliver with no other option than to point to the spot.
The spot kick was cooly slotted into the bottom corner by Balotelli to give City an eighth minute lead.
Unfortunately, after such a deflating start, things were not about to get any better for the away side.
For evidence of a team down on their luck, see Lescott's strike. The Birmingham-born defender met Adam Johnson's cross at the near post and although Barry Bannan looked to have cleared the header off the line the linesman flagged for a goal.
However, Roberto Mancini's men would not settle for being two-up so quickly and Balotelli swiftly added a third.
A neat exchange between David Silva and Yaya Toure on 26 minutes led to Brad Friedel pushing away the silky Spaniard's curling effort. But Balotelli pounced to tap in his second and the home team's third.
It took until three minutes before the break for Villa to fully recover and register a clear-cut attempt, when Marc Albrighton called Joe Hart into action with a rasping low drive which seemed destined for the bottom corner.
Reo-Coker came charging in for the rebound but Lescott got a crucial foot in to clear the danger.
There was briefly hope of a second-half resurgence from Villa when Petrov battled forward to win a free-kick, which Stewart Downing took and curled just over the bar.
But nine minutes after the restart, Balotelli completed his hat-trick with a second goal from the penalty spot.
This time Johnson made a nuisance of himself on the right and went down to a challenge from Albrighton. Balotelli stepped up again and side-footed past Friedel.
Houllier immediately shuffled his pack by bringing on Delph and Nathan Delfouneso for Bannan and Albrighton - with the latter almost pulling one back for Villa when he headed Downing's right wing cross wide of the target.
Delph also went close with a thumping drive which Hart saved but there was to be no happy ending to 2010 for Villa.
MAN CITY: Hart; Richards, Kompany, Lescott, Zabaleta; Boateng, Vieira, Toure; Johnson, Balotelli, Silva. Subs: Given, Bridge (for De Jong, 77), Milner (for Silva, 58), Boateng, Barry, Jo (for Toure, 62), Tevez.
VILLA: Friedel; Lichaj, Collins, Cuellar, Warnock; Albrighton, Reo-Coker, Petrov, Downing; Bannan; Agbonlahor. Subs: Pires (for Reo-Coker, 81), Delfouneso (for Albrighton, 55), Delph (for Bannan, 55), Clark, Guzan, Hogg, Herd.