Manchester City’s on-fire striker Sergio Aguero struck his second hat-trick in a week as the champions ruthlessly destroyed woeful Chelsea in a 6-0 win at The Etihad on Sunday to return to the top of the Premier League.
While Liverpool’s 3-0 win over Bournemouth on Saturday cut short talk of title run-in nerves on Merseyside this City victory, achieved with some glorious football against a top six opponent, was an emphatic statement.
In the past week City have beaten Arsenal at home and Everton away before taking Maurizio Sarri’s side to pieces with four goals in the opening 25 minutes.
“Incredible week, incredible game,” said manager Pep Guardiola.
“To score six against Chelsea and the way we played, we had so much attention (to detail). We did it, it’s an incredible compliment to the players, they are outstanding,” added the Spaniard.
City have now scored 33 goals in their last five home games in all competitions and have a chance of lifting their first silverware of the season when they face Chelsea again at Wembley in the League Cup final on Feb. 24.
City and Liverpool are both on 65 points with City having the better goal difference although they have played one more game than their rivals. Third-placed Tottenham Hotspur, who beat Leicester City 3-1 earlier on Sunday, are five points behind.
Aguero, who scored a hat-trick seven days ago against Arsenal, has equalled Alan Shearer’s record of 11 Premier League hat-tricks and is now joint top scorer in the league this season with Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah on 17 goals.
Chelsea had no time to settle before Raheem Sterling fired City ahead in the fourth minute with a side-foot finish after a quick free-kick from Kevin De Bruyne caught the visiting defence napping.
After Aguero had somehow missed an open goal from two metres, the Argentine promptly beat goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga with a blistering strike from 25 metres, underlining the fact that he is far more than a penalty area poacher.
A poor header by Chelsea’s Ross Barkley towards his own goal gifted Aguero with City’s third, the Argentine firing home with a first-time shot on the turn, and then a low drive from Ilkay Gundogan made it 4-0 after 25 minutes.
City were helped by the vulnerable nature of Chelsea’s defence but in truth few teams would have been able to survive the speed, precision and directness they produced.
Guardiola had left David Silva on the bench but his midfield looked perfectly balanced with De Bruyne and Gundogan providing a presence in the middle and Bernardo Silva, who seems to get better with every game, in imperious form on the right flank.
Following the break, Aguero, who also became City’s all-time top scorer in league games, headed against the bar before he completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot after Sterling had been brought down by Cesar Azpilicueta.
Sterling completed the rout, turning in a low cross from Oleksandr Zinchenko in the 80th.
The defeat was Chelsea’s worst since their 7-0 loss to Nottingham Forest in 1991 and will raise serious questions about the direction the team is going in under Italian Sarri as they slipped to sixth place on 50 points, a point off the top four.
“It is one of the worst nights in my career. It is difficult to explain what happened,” said Chelsea captain Azpilicueta.
“When we lose 6-0 we have to accept we didn’t play well and made errors. We knew it would be tough. When we won (2-0 against City on Dec. 8) at Stamford Bridge it was because we played well and were together. Today was not the case.
“All I can do is apologise to the fans because it is not acceptable,” he said.
Goals from Davinson Sanchez, Christian Eriksen and Son Heung-min helped Tottenham Hotspur overcome Leicester City 3-1 in an entertaining Premier League match at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.
Tottenham went ahead through Sanchez who scored his first goal for the London club by meeting Eriksen’s whipped cross with a diving header in the 33rd minute, although Leicester’s players complained he was in an offside position.
Leicester missed the chance to equalise on the hour mark when substitute Jamie Vardy’s penalty — his first touch after coming on — was pushed away by Hugo Lloris after Jan Vertonghen was adjudged to have fouled James Maddison in the box.
“Lloris saved us a few times and we were lucky that he took out the penalty which gave us confidence. You felt that in the whole stadium, and we’re happy to have Hugo,” Eriksen said.
Tottenham doubled their lead three minutes later as Eriksen collected the ball on the edge of the penalty area and unleashed a fierce shot past goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.
Vardy made up for his earlier miss by tapping in from close range 14 minutes from the final whistle after a well worked move allowed Ricardo Pereira to drill in a cross from the right.
After a sustained period of Leicester pressure, Son settled nerves of the home supporters by slotting in Tottenham’s third with a solo run from the halfway line.
Victory took title contenders Tottenham to 60 points from 26 matches, five points behind leaders Liverpool and two adrift of champions Manchester City who play Chelsea later on Sunday.
Eriksen said Tottenham had showed plenty of character to see off a determined Leicester, a quality that could help them in Wednesday’s Champions League last-16 first leg clash against Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund.
Liverpool needed an afternoon to calm their Premier League title jitters after a couple of stumbles and thanks to an obliging Bournemouth side they got their wish as a 3-0 victory lifted them back to the top of the table.
Goals by Sadio Mane and Georginio Wijnaldum before the break and another for Mohamed Salah three minutes after it allowed Liverpool to finish the match in cruise control.
Manchester United’s incredible surge showed no sign of slowing down as they won the day’s early kickoff 3-0 at second-bottom Fulham who sank even deeper into relegation trouble.
French midfielder Paul Pogba scored twice with Anthony Martial also on target as United made it 10 wins and a draw in the 11 matches since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer became interim manager after Jose Mourinho’s sacking.
The win lifted United into fourth spot with 51 points and they will stay there if Chelsea lose to City.
Cardiff City ended another traumatic week by securing a vital 2-1 victory at fellow strugglers Southampton.
Days after it was confirmed that the body of Emiliano Sala, the club’s new signing from Nantes, had been recovered from a plane that vanished over the English Channel, Cardiff were boosted by Kenneth Zohore’s last-gasp winner which lifted the Welsh club out of the bottom three.
Arsenal maintained their top-four push with a 2-1 victory at rock-bottom Huddersfield Town, their first away win in the league since November secured by goals from Alex Iwobi and Alexandre Lacazette.
The problems mounted for Everton manager Marco Silva as his side went down 1-0 to his old club Watford at Vicarage Road and had defender Kurt Zouma sent off in stoppage time.
Wilfried Zaha earned Crystal Palace a 1-1 draw at home to West Ham United who had led through Mark Noble’s penalty.
In the day’s late kickoff, Burnley continued their unbeaten league run in 2019 with a 3-1 victory at Brighton & Hove Albion, moving them three points clear of the bottom three and ensuring Southampton will finish the weekend in the relegation zone.
Poor performances in draws against Leicester and West Ham, results which allowed Man City to eradicate their lead, had raised questions about Liverpool’s nerve as they chase a first English title since 1990.
Had their keeper Alisson Becker not parried out Ryan Fraser’s shot in the second minute, it could have been a fraught afternoon in the Anfield sunshine.
But once Mane headed his side in front Liverpool assumed control. Wijnaldum’s deft lob over Artur Boruc doubled their lead and Salah got in on the act after good link-up play with Roberto Firmino.
Salah also struck the crossbar as Liverpool confirmed their return to form. They moved to 65 points from 26 matches with City on 62 and Tottenham Hotspur, who host Leicester on Sunday, a little further back on 57 points.
“We were not happy with the performances from the previous two games and struggled a bit with set-pieces,” Klopp said.
“There were a lot of things we had to improve. We have high expectations and today we won in an impressive manner — we had some outstanding performances on the pitch.
“We wanted to show a reaction. It’s out job not only to come through but to really perform and convince.”
United’s extraordinary resurgence under Solskjaer has seen them collect 25 points from his nine league games — more than any other manager has achieved in his first nine matches in charge of a single club in the competition.
World Cup winner Pogba was again the architect of the victory as he took his tally of league goals to seven since former striker Solskjaer arrived.
“Ole helps every player play at their best. Ole is himself. He’s not acting and he’s given joy and confidence to everyone,” Pogba said.