Wolves 1, Manchester City 5
Kevin De Bruyne scored four goals from four shots on target while Raheem Sterling added a fifth as clinical Manchester City thrashed Wolves to take another giant step towards the Premier League title.Embed from Getty Images
De Bruyne became the second City player to hit four goals in a league game this term while Sterling scored a fifth to restore City’s lead at the top of the Premier League back to three points with a +7 goal difference over Liverpool.
Both players hit the woodwork while Sterling had a goal ruled out for offside and missed a couple of sitters to boot.
City have a chance to hit 100 Premier League goals by the end of the season – they have 94 with two games to go but more importantly they only need four points from those two games to win the title.
City extended their club record of Premier League away games unbeaten to 17 while becoming the first English top-flight team to win with a margin of three or more goals in each of their last five league fixtures
But victory may have come at a price as City’s last remaining fit centre half Aymeric Laporte had to go off and apply ice to a knee injury while a half-fit Nathan Ake was forced to replace him.
Man of the match Kevin De Bruyne reflected on City’s reaction following their disappointment in Madrid where he had to watch City crumble from the sidelines after he was substituted as Pep Guardiola tried to manage the game.
He said: “It was a mad five minutes, we didn’t play bad but we can’t explain it as a player – I don’t know what happened and we were in shock.
“The feeling is still not nice but we need to move on and win the title.
And while City have now racked up 22 goals in five games since the 2-2 draw against Liverpool, he was modest about his contribution to City’s latest big win.
He added: “When you score four goals it’s always something special – it should have been five.
“We played well except for a couple of counters in the first half – we could have scored more.
“Our front four were able to find the right moments to go deep or come in.
“My right is my stronger foot but I’m not afraid to shoot with my left foot.
“It creates a problem for the opposition.
“We have an advantage with goal difference at the moment but we will need to concentrate on Sunday against West Ham.
“It won’t be an easy game.”
City boss Pep Guardiola admitted that Aymeric Laporte and Fernandinho had come off with injury problems but reserved praise for Kevin De Bruyne before declaring that the focus was now on the game at West Ham on Sunday.
He said: “Fernandinho has some muscular problems, Aymeric [Laporte] had a tough knock on the knee.
“We have just four days so we will see how they recover for Sunday.”
Guardiola was delighted with the performance of De Bruyne, adding: “Kevin’s play for the last 3 months, especially in Champions League, has been outstanding.
“He helped us a lot and I am happy because he also had the sense for an assist.
“This is his most prolific year for goals for him too.”
Inevitably, Guardiola was asked about the imminent signing of Erling Haaland and added:
“The club have made a good signing for the future and I’m sure he will adapt.
Kevin De Bruyne hits four but defensive injuries escalate as Manchester City beat Wolves to step closer to the title
Fernandinho replaced the injured Ruben Dias while Jack Grealish and Gabriel Jesus were rested in favour of Phil Foden and Raheem Sterling.
Kevin De Bruyne started this game with a purpose as he notched his first senior Manchester City hat trick within 24 minutes of the start of the game – the third earliest treble in the history of the Premier League after Sadio Mane and Dwight Yorke – and went on to hit his fourth after an hour to end the game on 18 goals for the season.
De Bruyne had already put a curling cross in for Phil Foden which was just too far in front of the England man before he took matters into his own hands.
The Belgian sliced open the Wolves defence and scored inside 7 minutes, finding Bernardo Silva, before running on to the return ball and threading the ball past Jose Sa.
Wolves were behind but City had to be wary of their counter attacks.
Aymeric Laporte executed a perfectly timed tackle to dispossess Chiquinho who thought he had broken free down the City left flank with a burst of pace.
But Wolves were quickly level after 11 minutes when they broke with Raul Jimenez who released Pedro Neto to cross the ball from the left to Leander Dendoncker who converted the chance from 13 yards out.
Zinchenko found De Bruyne who lifted the ball through to Sterling but Sa got there first to parry the ball away but found the Belgian arriving first to score his second of the game as he reached the loose ball first.
And De Bruyne completed his hat trick after 24 minutes – he was first to react to the loose ball after Sterling appeared to have been fouled while collecting Joao Cancelo’s throw in – the Belgian dribbled the ball infield from the right before smashing a low shot inside the back post from the edge of the area.
Rodri, celebrating 100 Premier League appearances for City, tried to join the party with a long range shot which drifted over the bar.
And Zinchenko, who had a challenging night up against Chiquinho, did a risky challenge on his man to deny the winger a chance to cross.
Chiquinho later went on to rob the Ukrainian but his cross into the centre was in vain as nobody had made the run and Ederson collected.
Cancelo thrashed the ball over the bar with Foden free of Johnny Otto while De Bruyne shot wide after Silva teed him up as City still looked wasteful when chances were there to be had.
Sterling’s goal after half time was ruled out for offside after City started the second half well.
But City suffered a blow soon afterwards after Raul Jimenez collided with Aymeric Laporte while being challenged by Foden.
The Spanish international defender went down clutching his knee and the half fit Nathan Ake was called to warm up but Laporte signalled that he could continue.
Zinchenko fouled Chiquinho but City repelled the free kick and subsequent corner. Conor Coady was offside although he shot was saved by Ederson as Wolves threatened a second goal.
City’s worries were short-lived as De Bruyne started another attack on the hour mark, finding Foden on the left, and his cutback was behind Sterling but De Bruyne swept up the half cleared loose ball to smash home his and City’s fourth.
That was the signal for Ake to replace Laporte who had ice applied to his knee after coming off.
Neto was denied by Fernandinho as the home side tried to claim a penalty but the Brazilian had touched the ball before bringing the Portuguese down.
But City were in no mood to give Wolves any more encouragement and Foden hit the post after De Bruyne unselfishly teed him up before Dendocker had a go and Jimenez had a shot tipped over.
Foden turned provider with a cross to Sterling which the forward inexplicably scuffed and collided with the post to boot.
With defensive injuries Fernandinho was swapped for Riyad Mahrez and Jack Grealish was on soon afterwards for Foden.
And Grealish started the move that ended with Cancelo crossing for Sterling to finally tap in from 2 yards out.
But true to form, Sterling then proceeded to miss a sitter for 6-1 soon afterwards although he was flagged offside while De Bruyne also struck the woodwork with another left foot rocket.
Hwang Hee-chan – on as a sub – sent the ball wide in added time but the game was long over for Wolves.
And with two games to go, City may have to plan to be without any senior central defenders and the absence of first choice alternative Fernandinho as they travel down to West Ham on Sunday.
MATCH STATS – Wolves 1, Manchester City 5
Wolves: Sa, Otto, Coady, Boly, Chiquinho, Dendoncker, Neves, Moutinho (Cundle 85), Ait-Nouri, Neto (Trincao 72), Jimenez (Hwang 72)
Wolves Subs not used: Ruddy, Hoever, Marcal, Mosquera, Fabio Silva, Gomes
Goal: Dendoncker 11
Man City: Ederson, Cancelo, Fernandinho (Mahrez 77), Laporte (Ake 61), Zinchenko, Rodri, Gundogan, De Bruyne, Sterling, Foden (Grealish 81), Bernardo Silva
Man City Subs not used: Steffen, Jesus, Egan-Riley, Mbete, Palmer, Lavia
Booking: De Bruyne (foul on Rayan Ait-Nouri)
Goals: De Bruyne 7, 16, 24, 60; Sterling 84
Referee: Martin Atkinson