Pablo Zabaleta happy as Manchester City remain on Champions League mission
Man City 3-2 Aston Villa
Pablo Zabaleta claimed victory was all that mattered as Manchester City moved closer to securing a Champions League spot with a last-gasp win over Aston Villa.
Substitute Fernandinho struck in the 89th minute as unconvincing City claimed three Barclays Premier League points in a frantic finish at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
Villa had fought back from 2-0 down to level at 2-2 with an 85th-minute equaliser from Carlos Sanchez.
It seemed the least the FA Cup finalists, battling against relegation, deserved but City, who have unexpectedly been dragged into a fight for a top-four place, had the final word.
Zabaleta said: "It was not our best game, we didn't play our best.
"But we must recognise when you win games playing badly it is always good, especially at this moment when all we need is three points and to keep winning games to secure the Champions League spot.
"Football sometimes is like that. Against Crystal Palace we played really well and we lost. This was not our best game and we won."
City were handed the perfect start when Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan miskicked in the third minute and presented Sergio Aguero with a tap-in for his 27th goal of the season.
Villa's hopes seemed over when Aleksandar Kolarov curled a free-kick through a gap in the wall after 66 minutes. But Tom Cleverley pulled one back and Sanchez looked to have earned a point until Fernandinho controlled on his chest and lashed in from a late corner.
Fernandinho said: "It was my third goal (of the season) - a beautiful goal, maybe my most beautiful of the season.
"But the most important thing for me was the winning goal. I am so happy about that.
"We talk a lot that we fight to the end - fans, players, all involved in the club. We never give up. When you dress in the City shirt, you need to keep that in your head. That is what happened."
With Liverpool, Tottenham and Southampton all drawing, the result strengthened City's grip on a top-four place.
Nevertheless, they were still troubled by Villa and the outcome might have been different had a controversial decision gone in the visitors' favour late on.
At 2-2, Christian Benteke was tripped by City goalkeeper Joe Hart for what could have been a penalty and a sending-off, had the offside flag not already been raised.
Replays suggested the Belgian was just onside.
With just four games remaining Villa are only two points above the bottom three - and three of the sides below them have a game in hand - but manager Tim Sherwood saw plenty of reason for encouragement.
He said: "If we play like that we will be okay. I think we played well and certainly deserved something.
"We are not afraid to get on the ball and we showed bravery in all areas. We got on it and moved it around.
"We are bitterly disappointed but take a lot of positives from the performance."