Balotelli puts City on top
Mario Balotelli (AP Photo)
Manchester - Mario Balotelli scored a hat-trick as Manchester City went top of the Premier League, for a few hours at least, after a 4-0 win at home to Aston Villa on Tuesday.
City's crushing win -- they were 3-0 up before half-time against a struggling Villa side -- saw them climb above Manchester United at the summit of English football.
But United will regain top spot if they avoid defeat away to Birmingham in one of Tuesday's late kick-off matches.
Tottenham Hotspur meanwhile displaced Premier League champions Chelsea in the top four after a 2-0 win at home to Newcastle.
England international Aaron Lennon's second-half goal broke the deadlock at White Hart Lane.
Then, for the second match in a row, Spurs were reduced to 10 men when Younes Kaboul was sent off in the 65th minute after his head needlessly made contact with Newcastle's Cheick Tiote.
But, as was the case in their win over Villa, Spurs scored a second goal when a man down with in-form Wales midfielder Gareth Bale netting nine minutes from time.
Blackpool's fairytale first season in the Premier League continued with a 2-0 win away to Sunderland secured by striker DJ Campbell's second-half double.
At the other end of the table, Fulham climbed out of the relegation zone with a 2-0 win away to Stoke City where Chris Baird netted twice for his first goals in four years.
It was only Fulham's third league success this season and their first away victory in the Premier League since August 2009.
Balotelli gave Manchester City an eighth minute lead at Eastlands when, after he was brought down in the box by Eric Lichaj, he scored from the resulting penalty.
Five minutes later City doubled their lead when defender Joleon Lescott got on the end of an Adam Johnson corner.
There were doubts as to whether all of the ball had crossed the line but the officials let the goal stand.
However, there was no debate about City's third goal, in the 27th minute, when Villa keeper Brad Friedel parried David Silva's powerful shot only for the ball to fall to Italian forward Balotelli, who tapped in from close range.
Balotelli, starting in place of the rested Carlos Tevez, completed his treble in the 55th minute with a second goal from a penalty after Johnson was fouled by Villa's Marc Albrighton.
At the Britannia Stadium, Fulham went ahead in the fourth minute when Baird struck a fierce 20-yard shot past Stoke keeper Asmir Begovic.
And six minutes later Baird and Fulham had a second goal, this time from a free-kick, as the defender again beat Begovic from long-distance.
Nikola Kalinic scored twice but was then sent off as Blackburn Rovers, whose Indian owners faced a legal challenge Tuesday to their takeover of the club, won 3-1 away to West Bromwich Albion.
Croatia striker Kalinic, who scored either side of Jerome Thomas's equaliser, was denied the chance of a hat-trick following a straight red card issued in the 64th minute for a late and high challenge on Paul Scharner.
The Baggies also ended the match a man down after defender Gabriel Tamas was sent off for a crude 78th minute challenge on Mame Diouf, who scored just after the hour mark.
West Ham, who climbed off the bottom of the table by beating Fulham on Sunday, are at home to Everton later Tuesday.
Chelsea, looking to bounce back from their 3-1 London derby defeat by Arsenal on Monday, face Bolton on Wednesday when the Gunners travel to Wigan and Liverpool welcome Wolves to Anfield.