Mario Balotelli gestures after scoring Manchester City's opener against  Aston Villa.

Story highlights

Manchester City go top of the English Premier League after 4-1 win over Aston Villa

Mario Balotelli puts City in front with his fourth goal in four games

Manchester United held 1-1 at Liverpool to lose top spot

Bolton move off the bottom with 3-1 win at fellow strugglers Wigan

CNN  — 

Manchester City knocked neighbors Manchester United off the top of the English Premier League standings with a 4-1 defeat of Aston Villa at the Etihad Stadium Saturday.

Mario Balotelli set City on their way to a convincing victory with a clever overhead kick after Villa failed to clear a corner. It was the fourth goal in four games for the brooding striker.

Roberto Mancini’s men added further second half goals through the excellent Adam Johnson, Vincent Kompany and James Milner against his old side.

Stephen Warnock scored a late consolation for well-beaten Villa.

Mancini praised Balotelli, who has taken his chance well after being on the sidelines for the opening few matches of the season.

“He is motivated because he is playing and scoring,” he told Press Association.

“It is important moment for him. I think that for a player on the bench with me it is not easy to watch the game and not play in a team playing well and scoring goals.”

With United held 1-1 by Liverpool in the early kick off, City pulled two points clear in the chase for the title ahead of the eagerly-awaited Manchester derby next weekend.

Steven Gerrard, making his first start for Liverpool in seven months, put the home side ahead with a second half free-kick which found its way through the United wall to beat David de Gea.

But Javier Hernandez, a late substitute, grabbed an 81st minute equalizer after slack home defense allowed the Mexican to steal in.

Wayne Rooney was also kept on the bench for the majority of the match by manager Alex Ferguson, who revealed after the draw that his star striker was “devastated” by UEFA’s decision to ban him for three games for the Euro 2012 finals after a sending off for England.

Rooney turned defender late on to prevent Luis Suarez from heading home, while de Gea made a superb save to deny Jordan Henderson.

Third placed Chelsea later closed to within a point of Manchester United as they beat Everton 3-1 at Stamford Bridge.

Goals from Daniel Sturridge, captain John Terry and Brazilian midfielder Ramires put them 3-0 ahead before a late strike from Greek substitute Apostolos Vellios gave Everton a deserved score.

In other matches, Bolton moved off the bottom of the table with a 3-1 win at fellow strugglers Wigan.

Blackburn replaced them despite holding Queens Park Rangers to a 1-1 draw at Loftus Road, while Norwich beat Swansea 3-1 in a battle of promoted sides.

Stoke had late goals from Jonathan Walters and Rory Delap to thank for a 2-0 home win over Fulham.