Ten-man Chelsea surrendered a first-half lead at Villa Park, ensuring defeat in our first competitive outing of the season.
Fernando Torres put us in front five minutes before half-time only for Branislav Ivanovic to be almost instantly dismissed for a late tackle, meaning an uphill battle in the second half.
Our lead lasted only seven minutes beyond the break, when Yaya Toure crashed home from the edge of the area, and City were quickly in front through Carlos Tevez before Smir Nasri extended the lead.
Chelsea continued to battle but with a man down only rarely threatened. Sub Daniel Sturridge’s shot was spilled to Ryan Bertrand for the Olympian to grab his first Chelsea goal, but it proved no more than a consolation on a frustrating afternoon in the West Midlands.
With almost a full squad to choose from, only Marko Marin through injury and Oscar through international duty were unavailable for this one, Roberto Di Matteo was able to select a strong starting 11.
David Luiz received the nod ahead of Gary Cahill to partner John Terry, while John Mikel Obi was selected alongside Frank Lampard as one of two deeper midfielders in the 4-2-3-1 shape. Juan Mata was back for his first Chelsea outing since the Champions League final, and Eden Hazard made his competitive debut.
Youngster Lucas Piazon was among the subs, as was the returning Sturridge.
For City, goalkeeper Joe Hart was injured and so Costello Pantilimon stood in. Mario Balotelli was absent with conjunctivitis.
So much for this game supposedly being the last of pre-season. The contest started at a terrific tempo, with Petr Cech the first of the goalkeepers called into action when he pushed a bending Carlos Tevez free-kick away from goal after three minutes.
After 15 minutes City worked their way through again, Cech denying the forward at close range after some slick passing. The FA Cup winners were not yet firing, while the league champions had quickly found their rhythm.
Captain Vincent Kompany glanced a James Milner corner straight at Cech, while at the other end Hazard’s clumsy trip while in possession typified Chelsea’s disjointedness.
A Nigel De Jong tackle on Mata instigated another rapid City attack, catching Terry out of position and allowing Milner to find Sergio Aguero, but fortunately his header was wide. Chelsea finally worked the Romanian stand-in goalkeeper after 25 minutes, when Ramires picked out Lampard whose trademark arrival into the area saw him side-foot into the goalkeeper’s arms.
A new season always brings hope with it that Mikel might find goal scoring form, but alas the midfielder’s shooting boots remain missing, his long-range effort flying well over the bar. Thankfully Hazard appears more hungry for goals, and his low drive brought an unconvincing save from Pantilimon before the half-hour.
By now played had slowed, but it seemed to be benefiting Chelsea who were beginning to gain a foothold in the game.
So much so, in fact, that we took the lead five minutes before half-time. Ashley Cole had galloped forward and crossed, and when the ball fell loose to Ramires he was able to beat his man and flick the ball to Torres, who took a tough and lifted the ball over the keeper and in from eight yards.
Moments later though we were reduced to 10 men, Ivanovic sent off by referee Kevin Friend for appearing to go in two-footed on his compatriot Aleksandar Kolarov. The referee may wish to take a look at the replay, which suggested there was definite contact, and late, but not as malicious a tackle as he perceived.
So Chelsea emerged for the second period a goal up but a man down, with Ramires reverting to right-back. City replaced Stefan Savic with Gael Clichy.
It took only seven minutes for an equaliser to arrive, and Chelsea will be disappointed with how it came. Milner received too much space in which to cross from the right, Terry failed to clear convincingly, only reaching Toure on the edge of the box, and the Ivorian smashed it low and hard inside Cech’s near post.
Nasri almost created a second City goal three minutes later when he crossed from the left, but Cole was alert enough to clear inside his own six-yard box, but City would not need to wait long to go in front.
Nasri found the Argentine on the edge of the area, and after faking to shoot once, taking Terry out of the game, he then bent a stunning drive into Cech’s top-left corner, which the goalkeeper could only stand and watch.
The game had completely turned on its head in the space of six minutes, and City had assumed control.
Nasri poked home the third on 64 minutes after Kolarov had cut back from the bye-line, both in space and with Cech helpless, the extra man proving vital to the Citizens’ comeback.
City continued to have the better of the play, and Lampard was fortunate not to see a second yellow after a late tackle on Milner, before sub Bertrand put us back in contention.
Daniel Sturridge, Di Matteo’s other change, had stung Pantilimon’s palms with a low shot, and Pantilimon couldn’t hold it, allowing Bertrand to steal in and smash home. Twelve minutes remained.
It was always going to be tough though, and in fact it was City who threatened more in that time. On the stroke of 90 minutes Aguero lazily shot wide with the goal gaping, and then Terry made a last-ditch tackle on sub Edin Dzeko to give us some hope, but there would be no breakthrough.
And so the first of seven titles for the European Champions is gone, but six more remain. Of importance to Di Matteo will be to get his men ready for Wigan next weekend.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, David Luiz, Terry (c), Cole; Mikel, Lampard; Ramires, Mata Sturridge 74), Hazard (Bertrand 70); Torres.
Unused subs: Turnbull, Cahill, Essien, Meireles, Piazon.
Booked: Ramires 31, Lampard 45, Cole 61
Sent off: Ivanovic 41
Goals: Torres 39, Bertrand
Manchester City (3-4-1-2): Pantilimon; Savic (Clichy h-t), Kompany (c), Zabaleta; Milner, Yaya Toure, De Jong, Kolarov; Nasri (Silva 76); Tevez (Dzeko 88), Aguero.
Unused subs: Johansen, Kolo Toure, Razak, Johnson.
Booked: Savic 10, Kompany 48
Goals: Yaya Toure 52, Tevez 58, Nasri 64
Referee: Kevin Friend