City suffered their first Premier League defeat in two months as they went down 1-0 at Aston Villa.
Leon Bailey’s second half goal, which clipped off Ruben Dias, won the contest at a buoyant Villa Park as the hosts picked up their 14th straight victory on home soil.
The defeat was also their first in December in three years, the last loss in this month also coming in the West Midlands, a 3-2 reversal to Wolves in 2019.
Pep Guardiola’s men won’t have long to wait to try and get back on the winning trail as they travel to newly-promoted Luton Town on Sunday.
Villa started like a team that had won 13 games in succession on home soil, showing a swagger in front of the claret and blue faithful.
The big question for City was who was going to take the place of Rodrigo in the midfield lynchpin role.
The answer was John Stones and Manuel Akanji who took it in turns to operate in the deeplying central position, supporting Rico Lewis and Julian Alvarez, with Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden and Erling Haaland their foraging forwards.
The game itself started at an electric pace, with attacking intent end-to-end.
Bailey enjoyed the first chance of the game on six minutes, the Jamaican played through via a hopeful ball over the top by skipper John McGinn. The winger was denied by a classy save by Ederson in the City goal.
Moments later, the Brazilian stopper produced an even more impressive save, diving to his right to clear an on-target Pau Torres sweeping drive from inside the area.
City got in on the act on 11 minutes with a double chance for Erling Haaland.
The star striker was played in by a clinical Alvarez pass but his goalbound strike was well stopped by Emiliano Martinez and the Ballon d’Or Lev Yashin Trophy winner denied the PFA and FWA Player of the Year’s subsequent header after a pinpoint cross from the right by Foden.
Ederson was called into action again on 23 minutes when he tipped over a Bailey drive from 25 yards, the August 2021 signing for the Villans – one of three to replace City-bound Jack Grealish – given too much time and space in the danger zone.
City’s No.31 was called into action again on the half hour mark, putting enough pressure on defender Ezri Konsa to put him off with the defender heading former City man Douglas Luiz’s free-kick over the bar.
With the next attack, Bailey blasted high and handsome from McGinn’s cross while Josko Gvardiol produced an immaculate tackle to deny Youri Tielemans shortly after with the hosts eyeing an opener in front of the North Stand.
City had to withstand some serious Villa pressure as the half ticked down to the interval, with the home side pressing high and looking to pounce on any unforced errors from the Treble winners.
Villa Park erupted on the stroke of half-time as Luiz headed home Digne’s cross from the left but the goal was swiftly ruled out due to the ball being out of play in the build-up.
At the other end, Foden was denied at the far post with Konsa doing enough to negate the danger from a Bernardo cross from the right.
City came out for the second half with more impetus and intent, hemming Villa into their own half and dominating possession, with the manager’s interval instructions clearly coming to the fore.
Foden broke clear on 55 minutes after a clever pass through by Haaland but Martinez dove to stop the fierce drive, with the flag raised for offside shortly after the save was made.
The hosts then grew in stature again, as they attacked the Holte End, but Guardiola’s men defended with courage and conviction.
McGinn shot wide just past the hour mark as he broke into the box from a dinked ball into him by Bailey.
The boss looked to freshen things up on 68 minutes with the claret and blues smelling blood, Mateo Kovacic and Matheus Nunes replacing Lewis and Alvarez while Oscar Bobb came on in the 73rd minute in place of Foden.
Bailey, a constant menace throughout the contest, opened the scoring on 74 minutes when his deflected right-foot strike flew past Ederson, giving the goalkeeper little chance to save.
Ederson produced a brilliant save on 78 minutes to deny Luiz as the pair both went for the ball as it ballooned up in the home side’s box.
Martinez got down well to smother a Nunes free-kick from the left on 82 minutes as the visitors pushed for a leveller.
However, Luiz almost made it two but his right-footed curler smashed against the post on 87 minutes.
City huffed and puffed in the closing moments as they eyed the vital equaliser but the hosts held on for the three points.