LONDON  - Lescott was left unmarked in the six-yard box to turn the ball home after Gareth Barry had flicked back James Milner’s left-wing corner towards goal as the two former players returned to haunt their old stomping ground.

In a match of few clear-cut chances City dominated possession and tried to pepper Shay Given’s goal, but the closest they came apart from Lescott’s goal was an Adam Johnson shot which struck the outside of the post whilst the home side failed to threaten Joe Hart.

Alex McLeish made four changes to the team who lost to Newcastle. In came James Collins back from injury, Gary Gardner, Marc Albrighton and Emile Heskey, with Stephen Warnock, Ciaran Clark, Charles N’Zogbia and Stephen Ireland making way.

Roberto Mancini brought Vincent Kompany back into his side alongside Pablo Zabaleta and Milner. Out went Stefan Savic, Micah Richards and Edin Dzeko. In a subdued start City had the first chance when after a long ball was headed away by Collins, David Silva nodded it to Sergio Aguero who shot on the turn from the edge of the area straight at Given.

The match livened up slightly with Richard Dunne heading a Stiliyan Petrov free-kick tamely at Hart and Silva wriggling away to hit a low shot which Given had little trouble saving. The Spaniard was involved moments later with a wonderful cross-field pass to Aleksandr Kolarov who teed up Barry, but he again shot straight at Given.

The visitors were still dominating possession and beginning to look more threatening, with the Villa defence having to block shots from several angles as they began to come under the cosh. They were a touch fortunate when Johnson’s long range effort hit the outside of the post with Given at full stretch.

Aguero then had two efforts, firstly weaving into the area before slicing wide and then seeing his shot across goal cleared by Alan Hutton although it appeared to be going wide. The Argentine tried his luck once more before Kolarov also had a free-kick from 25 yards, but neither could hit the target as the teams went into the break goal-less after a disappointing first-half.

City started the second 45 minutes on the front foot with Kompany flicking a Milner corner towards goal, but Hutton managed to clear. Lescott was next to try his luck, but he could not get his head round a Silva free-kick from the right and he headed it miles wide.

Next Zabaleta tested Given again before Collins blocked a Nigel de Jong effort and Kolarov again missed the target. A goal had always looked like coming at some stage but it took the two Villa old boys to combine for the visitors to take the lead.

Milner’s corner from the left was headed back across goal by Barry for Lescott to stab home before celebrating with his team-mates wildly in front of the travelling fans. Having recouped 11 points from losing positions this season, Villa found themselves in a familiar position once again and McLeish responded by bringing on N’Zogbia for Heskey in a bid to draw level.

The home side had threatened only from set-pieces during the match and they had two chances to equalise. First Dunne tamely headed at Hart and then Cuellar headed Petrov’s right-wing delivery over from eight yards when unmarked.

Villa so nearly grabbed an equaliser late on but, after another corner was flicked on by Collins, Hart, who had had very little to do all game, kept out his flick towards goal with a wonderful reaction save which ensured Manchester City returned to the Premier League summit.