Spain striker Villa has struggled to reclaim top form this season after breaking a leg in the Club World Cup 12 months ago - an injury which kept him out of the European Championship.
But he showed overdue signs of promise at the Estadio Nuevo Arcangel on Wednesday night, particularly in the first half before tiring in the second.
He set up the opening goal for Lionel Messi with the Argentina star netting the second, and his 88th of a remarkable season, after the break.
Vilanova said: "I'm very pleased with the work Villa has done.
"He provided the assist for Messi and he gave us a lot of options up top.
"He played with a lot of rhythm and he reminded me of the footballer he was before his injury."
Segunda division Cordoba held their own for much of the contest before Barca finally started to dominate late on.
And Vilanova insisted the two-legged last-16 tie was not yet over, adding: "I was sure that it would be a difficult match. Cordoba showed us that, particularly in the first half.
"2-0 is a good result but we still have to play 90 minutes and they can score two goals at the Nou Camp."
Midfielder-cum-defender Javier Mascherano was also impressed by the home side.
"Cordoba demanded a lot from us but we had the sufficient drive to win the match," he said.
"We have a good result but we still have to play at home. Cordoba pushed us to the limit. They were brave and they pressured us a lot."