The league’s refereeing body, the PGMOL, released a statement to clarify the ruling after Villa fans reacted furiously online and the manager Dean Smith was sent off for his reaction on the touchline at the Etihad Stadium.
The entertaining game seemed to be heading for a goalless draw until the contentious moment late in the second half, when City midfielder Rodri came from an offside position to tackle the Villa defender Tyrone Mings, who had just controlled a forward pass from one of Rodri’s teammates.
Rodri pinched the ball from Mings and fed Bernardo Silva, who finished ruthlessly past Emiliano Martinez in the Villa goal. Ilkay Gundogan added a late penalty to clinch a 2-0 victory and send City top of the table.
In a statement, the PGMOL clarified that the officials were right to let the goal stand because Mings “deliberately played the ball”.
The statement read: "In the 79th minute of Manchester City vs. Aston Villa, Bernardo Silva scored for Manchester City. In the build-up to the goal, Rodri was initially standing in an offside position as the ball was played upfield. Tyrone Mings deliberately played the ball, controlling it on his chest. As soon as Mings deliberately played the ball the following Law applies: A player in an offside position receiving the ball from an opponent who deliberately plays the ball, including by deliberate handball, is not considered to have gained an advantage, unless it was a deliberate save by any opponent.
"As the Law deems that Rodri has not gained an advantage, he has not committed an offside offence and play should be allowed to continue. Rodri legitimately took possession of the ball from Mings, starting the attack which resulted in the goal."
Smith remained insistent after the game that the decision was wrong.
“It was a farcical decision,” the Villa manager said. “I've not seen a goal like that given. It needs to be looked at. I don't think anyone in this stadium thought it was a goal.”
Man City manager Pep Guardiola was delighted with his side's sixth successive win in the league.
"No one else has won five, six in a row but it's still the first leg of the season. A lot of games to go but the important thing is that the feeling is good," he said. "It was a very good performance again, against a top side. They are very dangerous and just look at their results this season. A big victory."
Smith, who also disputed the penalty decision, said his team's time in Covid-19 isolation had been difficult but added some perspective. "It's been tough but much tougher for other people across the country, so it's not too hard for my lads to do 10 days in isolation when some people have done it for nine months."