Carlos Tevez scored the only goal as Manchester City won at relegation-threatened Aston Villa to cut the gap to Premier League leader Manchester United to 12 points.
Tevez, who replaced the injured Sergio Aguero in the starting lineup, scored in first-half stoppage time at Villa Park last night after Edin Dzeko stole the ball following a slip in possession by home defender Ciaran Clark.
The win lifted defending champion City to 59 points in second place through 28 of 38 matches, five clear of third-place Tottenham. Villa remained 18th in the 20-team standings after slumping to its seventh home defeat of the season.
“For us it was important to stay 12 behind United, with 10 games left you never say never,” City manager Roberto Mancini, whose team made up an eight-point gap with six games left to beat its local rival to the title last season, told Sky Sports. “Keep on winning and you never know, this is football.”
Record 19-time champion United had gone 15 points ahead two days ago with a 4-0 home win against Norwich.
Tevez, who denied Villa a 21st-minute lead last night when he cleared Christian Benteke’s header off the goal line, got the decisive goal on the stroke of halftime.
Clark was caught in possession by Dzeko when trying to turn away and appealed for a foul as the Bosnian striker passed to Tevez, who cut back past goalkeeper Brad Guzan before shooting past Clark on the goal line.
Tevez had a second-half shot cleared off the line by Matthew Lowton and Yaya Toure almost doubled City’s lead when he hit the post with a shot from the edge of the penalty area in the 72nd minute. Although Dzeko fired the rebound into the net, the goal was disallowed for offside.
Villa tried to build some pressure in the final stages, and couldn’t create a clear chance. Lowton sliced a stoppage-time corner kick straight out for a goal kick as Villa remained in the three-team relegation zone behind 17th-place Wigan on goal difference.
With 30 points left to play for, City next visits Everton on March 16 before hosting Newcastle United two weeks later. The Blues then travel to Old Trafford on April 8 to take on United.
“There is nothing we can do about United, but we can just keep winning games and who knows?” City defender Gael Clichy told his club’s website. “In the Premier League three or four matches can make everything look very different.”