By Rob Bishop
Villa's FA Cup bandwagon shuddered to a halt as they suffered an emphatic defeat at Eastlands.
Outclassed by Manchester City just after Christmas, Gerard Houllier's men were once again second best by some distance in this fifth round tie.
Despite the incentive of a quarter-final home tie against Reading, the visitors simply never got going and it was an uphill battle once Yaya Toure had fired City into a sixth-minute lead.
Mario Balotelli added a second on 26 minutes and despite an encouraging start to the second half, any hopes of a comeback were buried by David Silva in the 71st minute.
It could have been worse, too, Brad Friedel making two excellent saves from substitute Carlos Tevez in the closing stages.
City's early goal was the last thing Villa needed on a night when Australian full-back Chris Herd and American midfielder Michael Bradley were given their first starts in a line-up which also included Nathan Delfouneso, Barry Bannan and Fabian Delph.
Patrik Vieira's downward header from Aleksandar Kolarov's left-wing corner struck Ciaran Clark on his arm and although there was no question of it being a penalty, the ball fell perfectly to Toure, who was left with the simple task of drilling home from three yards.
After Gabby Agbonlahor had sent a shot wide of the far post, Bannan tested Joe Hart with a rising 25-yard drive which the City keeper did well to hold.
But in the 26th minute the home side increased their lead, Balotelli timing his run to perfection as he moved on to Toure's long pass and lifted a right-foot shot over Friedel from just inside the penalty area.
That was a cruel blow for a Villa side who had been knocking the ball around confidently but five minutes later they were desperately close to scoring.
Emile Heskey cut in from the left to unleash a stinging low right-foot drive which Hart could only push aside as he dived to his left.
As Delfouneso moved in for the rebound Kolarov just managed to clear for a corner.
Villa were the more aggressive side at the start of the second half, Richard Dunne having a header cleared from the goalmouth while Agbonlahor offered plenty of menace down the left.
Skipper Stiliyan Petrov wasn't far away, either, when he fired over from 20 yards, although Delph did well to clear a Vieira header off the line.
But just as Stewart Downing and Ashley Young were preparing to go on as substitutes, City increased their lead on 71 minutes.
Herd managed to head away a cross from the right, but only as far as Silva, whose low left-foot shot from the edge of the area left Friedel helpless as it flew into the bottom corner.
As City continued to press forward, Tevez was twice close to adding a fourth goal.
His tremendous angled drive struck Friedel's arms and the keeper then pushed away an equally fierce right-foot shot from the Argentine star.
Friedel also kept out a shot from another of City's subs, Jo, in stoppage time.