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Balotelli hat-trick as City step up English title bid

Mario Balotelli completes his hat-trick in Manchester City's 4-0 home win over Aston Villa.
Mario Balotelli completes his hat-trick in Manchester City's 4-0 home win over Aston Villa.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Manchester City beat Aston Villa 4-0 to go temporarily top of English Premier League
  • Italian striker Mario Balotelli scores a hat trick at Eastlands
  • Tottenham Hotspur score 2-0 home win over Newcastle to go fourth
  • Blackpool continue superb season with 2-0 win at Sunderland

(CNN) -- Manchester City crushed Aston Villa 4-0 with Mario Balotelli scoring a hat-trick to go temporarily top of the English Premier League ahead of city rivals Manchester United's 1-1 draw at Birmingham later Tuesday.

Although City were only at the head of affairs for a few hours, the manner of their victory suggested they will be a factor in the title race, but for Gerard Houllier's Villa it was another dispiriting defeat.

Tottenham Hotspur, who won 2-1 at Villa on Boxing Day, beat Newcastle 2-0 in another afternoon kick-off to leapfrog Chelsea into fourth place.

Goals from Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale in the second half maintained Tottenham's impressive recent run and spelt a second straight defeat for Newcastle under new manager Alan Pardew.

Man Utd regain top spot despite draw

Bale scored the clinching second after a trademark surging run after Younes Kaboul had been sent off for the home side after tangling with Cheick Tiote.

"I know that we are top but I think it will only be for three hours. It is important to be there at the end of the season
--Roberto Mancini
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At Eastlands, Balotelli proved a real handful for Villa, winning an early penalty after being hauled down by Eric Lichaj.

The Italian got up to convert the penalty and City were 2-0 ahead inside the first 15 minutes as Joleon Lescott headed home Adam Johnson's corner.

Balotelli scored his second from close range before the break and completed his hat-trick in the second half with his second successful penalty after Johnson was fouled by Marc Alrighton.

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini took a realistic view of their hgih placing.

"I know that we are top but I think it will only be for three hours. It is important to be there at the end of the season," the Italian told BBC Sport.

Elsewhere, promoted Blackpool continued their remarkable season under Ian Holloway with a 2-0 win at Sunderland to go eighth, having been the favorites to go straight back down at the start of the campaign.

Two second half goals from DJ Campbell gave Blackpool three points in their first match since December 11 after their own Bloomfield Road ground was unfit to play due to a frozen pitch.

Chris Baird scored two early goals as Fulham relieved some of the pressure on manager Mark Hughes with a 2-0 win at Stoke, while Blackburn's fans will be happier after Nikoli Kalinic scored twice in a 3-1 victory at West Brom.

Kalinic blotted his copybook by being sent off for a wild challenge in the second half, but it was the first win for new manager Steve Kean, who took over from the sacked Sam Allardyce.

In Tuesday's evening kickoff, West Ham missed the chance to move out of the bottom three when they were held 1-1 at home by Everton.

The Hammers took the lead when Tony Hibbert diverted Radoslav Kovac's overhead kick into his own net.

Everton leveled just before halftime through Seamus Coleman, before Carlton Cole missed a great opportunity to seal victory for the home side after the break.