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Toure, back in scoring business, now targets retaining title

The Ivorian cut a figure of relaxed contentment as he chatted to City’s in-house TV channel.

Manchester City’s Ivorian midfielder Yaya Toure (L) vies with Aston Villa’s Austrian striker Andreas Weimann (R). Picture: AFP

BIRMINGHAM - Yaya Toure broke into a stifled laugh when it was put to him that he had offered a perfect response to his critics with his delicious and decisive goal for Manchester City at Aston Villa on Saturday.

"I'm a guy with a lot of experience, I've played for big sides in Europe and I know what criticism is," shrugged Toure.

"If they want to, they (the critics) can continue. For me the most important thing is winning the Premier League."

The Ivorian cut a figure of relaxed contentment as he chatted to City's in-house TV channel about his lovely 82nd-minute goal, his first of this season's Premier League campaign, which had finally broken Villa's dogged resistance in the 2-0 win.

Even though Toure felt he had been impervious to the barbs, his manager Manuel Pellegrini could recognise how important a breakthrough the goal must have been for a man who had so far in this campaign looked a shadow of the rampaging figure who was so instrumental in helping him lift the title.

Asked if he felt the goal -- a few loping steps forward outside the box followed by a nonchalant left-footed pass into the net while patrolled by three Villa defenders -- would prompt the Toure of old to now reappear, Pellegrini said: "We hope, we hope."

For though the Chilean coach was adamant that nobody at the club had ever doubted Toure's ability or commitment, he also made it sound as if "personal problems" may have affected the midfielder's early-season frame of mind.

FEELING UNLOVED

During the close-season, there had been plenty of speculation about Toure supposedly feeling unloved by City -- he has since haughtily denied the comical story that he was unhappy at not receiving a birthday cake from the club -- but the death of his brother Ibrahim from cancer must surely have taken its toll on him.

"I talked to Yaya. He has a lot of different things in his private life but he didn't have any problems (with the club) and he didn't want to go anywhere. He was absolutely committed to this club," said Pellegrini.

Toure himself though evidently felt the criticism of his early season form was somewhat unfair and speculated that perhaps he had almost been a victim of his own goalscoring prowess last season, when he scored 24 in 49 appearances in all competitions.

"I know there has been criticism of me but I always try my hardest and I will continue to do that and keep going," he said.

"Sometimes, people forget that I'm a midfielder and my job is not to score goals all the time.

"Last year was quite open for me because I was in quite a good position and I had some luck. I had some free kicks and penalties. But for me, not to score is probably normal because I'm playing in midfield.

"The goal was a nice one but it doesn't matter whether it is me, (Sergio) Aguero, (Edin) Dzeko or (Stevan) Jovetic so long as we get the result we need."

Following Toure's breakthrough, Aguero, who had earlier hit the post, sealed the victory six minutes later with a thumping finish, remarkably his 22nd goal in his last 25 Premier League starts.

"Our aim is to win the title again and we know that Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal will all be strong again this season so it won't be easy but we will be trying our hardest to retain the title," said Toure. "We played well, with calm and concentration."

Villa's manager Paul Lambert, whose side performed creditably but ultimately did not have the class to avoid falling to their third successive League defeat, was left hugely impressed by what Pellegrini had felt was City's best performance of the season.

The Scot believes that, despite their poor start to the Champions League campaign, City have the ammunition to challenge for a European-domestic double, although he can find little to choose between them and Chelsea.

"It's a close one. Two really good sides. I think it's going to be a close one this year, that's for sure," said Lambert. "City will be close to winning the League and if they get their European campaign up and running, they'll go pretty close."