Manchester City 2 Aston Villa 0

Aston Villa's rise up the Premiership was halted by resurgent Manchester City, as first-half strikes from Jon Macken and Shaun Wright-Phillips handed Kevin Keegan's side the points.

David O'Leary saw his side, which began the day in fifth place, lose for the first time in November following a lacklustre display at the City of Manchester Stadium.

And there were no complaints from the Villa manager who acknowledged his side could have been beaten by an even heavier margin.

O'Leary said: "Congratulations to Manchester City who were the better side. We didn't get going today and the best team won.

"We are a small band of players who are doing their best, but today we didn't perform.

"City have a lot of quality players and on their day can give anyone a game." O'Leary is hoping referee Mike Riley will rescind Lee Hendrie's injury time sending off, claiming the midfielder's head-butt did not connect with City full-back Danny Mills.

O'Leary added: "There was no contact point. It is there in colour, not black and white.

"You see players punished as a result of television footage but in this case I hope justice is done." Keegan, in contrast, was delighted by his side securing back-to-back victories for the first time in the Premiership in 19 months.

First half goals from Macken - his first in the league this season - and Wright-Phillips extended City's unbeaten League run to five matches.

And after being perilously close to the relegation zone not many weeks ago, City now find themselves sitting pretty in the top half of the table.

Keegan said: "Winning two games in a row has been a long time coming but it was worth the wait.

"We thoroughly deserved to beat Villa who have been in the ascendancy and been having a great run.

"If there was a disappointment it was we didn't get a third goal. We had a lot of chances, but the final ball let us down." Keegan was also full of praise for man-of-the match Wright-Phillips, describing him as "one of the best players in the world at the moment".

He added: "I cannot think of another player who is better at what he does.

"He will get into the England side and once he does you won't get him out as happened here. And he will also give England another dimension." Mills returned after suspension in place of 18-year old Nedum Onuoha at right back and City also gave a starting spot to Robbie Fowler, after Nicolas Anelka failed to recover from an ankle injury sustained at Portsmouth last Saturday.

Villa also had two changes from their previous match with Hendrie, ironically, back after suspension, and Gareth Barry also recalled. Steve Davis and Thomas Hitzlsperger were the two players to stand down.

Villa's Thomas Sorensen was the first keeper called into action but he comfortably dealt with a long-range drive from Antoine Sibierski.

And the French midfield player came close again in the ninth minute when a long-range shot whistled just wide of an upright.

City had another glorious opening after Villa left back Jlloyd Samuel slipped allowing Macken a free header which, unbelievably, he put wide of the target.

Sorensen then had to turn over Richard Dunne's header as City continued to dictate the play, forcing Villa into a desperate rearguard action.

City finally made a breakthrough in the 29th minute through Macken.

Mills and Fowler set up the striker who superbly turned defender Mark Delaney before slotting the ball low past Sorensen, though he received the help of a lucky deflection.

The every-threatening Sibierski then tested Sorensen's reactions with a drive from the left which the keeper did well to turn away.

City deservedly doubled their lead seven minutes before the break through a stunning strike from Wright-Phillips.

Sibierski and Joey Barton linked with the latter driving in a low cross from the left which was only cleared as far as Wright-Phillips, whose thunderous drive from outside the penalty area left Sorensen rooted to his line.

City keeper David James had to wait until the 41st minute before making his first save, a brilliant stop low to his right to keep out Hendrie's goalbound shot.

Nolberto Solano set up Hendrie with an intelligent cut-back but the midfield player blazed over, a miss which was indicative of Villa's sorry showing.

City would have added a third goal on the hour but for a brilliant save by Sorensen to tip over a fiercely struck shot from Barton from the edge of the area.

O'Leary made a double substitution in the 61st minute, taking off Barry and Carlton Cole with the pair replaced by Hitzlsperger and Luke Moore.

But it was to no avail as City continued to dominate and it was beginning to look a case of how big their winning margin would be.

Gavin McCann had only Villa's second effort on target in the 68th minute but James again excelled with a flying tip-over.

City eased off in the closing stages with victory seemingly assured.

Villa might have made a breakthrough had McCann not had the misfortune of seeing his on-target shot strike Hendrie and divert wide of the target.

Villa were handed an unexpected lifeline with three minutes remaining when Moore was tripped by Richard Dunne, although television replays showed it was clearly outside the penalty area.

Justice was done when Juan-Pablo Angel's spot-kick was brilliantly saved by James.

The Colombian striker headed the rebound over the crossbar when it looked easier to score - and Villa's chances of clawing their way back into the game had disappeared.

And to round off a miserable afternoon they had Hendrie sent off in injury time following his clash with Mills.

Man of the match: Shaun Wright-Phillips An inspirational midfield display that underlined why he is now established in the England squad.