Manchester City moved closer to avoiding the Champions League play-in round and sent Queens Park Rangers packing their bags for the Championship with a 6-0 victory Sunday afternoon at the Etihad.
Golden Boot leader Sergio Aguero, Aleks Kolarov, James Milner and David Silva all scored for City to move into sole possession of second in the table -- for now, as Arsenal have a couple games in hand. Manuel Pellegrini's side are also five points clear of fourth-place Manchester United heading into the final two matches of the season for the Manchester clubs.
Aguero's fifth City hat trick -- which was joined by a second-half assist, his 7th --pushes the Argentine's scoring total to 25 league goals on the season, five ahead of Harry Kane in the Premier League charts.
It took less than four minutes for Aguero to open the scoring, as the forward lobbed QPR goalkeeper Rob Green from a tight angle on the left side. A fortuitous bounce allowed Aguero to get the shot off, but as usual, he even his "lucky" goals are still a spectacle.
Charlie Austin, in one of QPR's sporadic chances, had a header disallowed in the 20th minute and not long after, City strung together a few really smart passing moves that almost resulted in adding to the lead. Fernandinho hit side netting, Mangala was deceived by a bouncing ball on a low cross from Milner, and attacks continued to mount as City looked destined to further take advantage of the disjointed QPR side.
Kolarov struck on a set piece just after a half hour. Aguero drew a foul in a dangerous position, and the Serbian stepped to the free kick, placing it between the disoriented QPR to double the lead and score his second in three matches. Mass confusion in QPR's wall -- shuffling around, miscommunication, the gap -- was enough to describe the visitor's performance by itself. Kolarov also challenged Green in the second half from a similar position, but the QPR No. 1 was up to the task the second go-round.
QPR played three at the back, made plenty of gratuitous giveaways and lent plenty of space on the flanks on a day in which the visitors seemed entirely content to their relegation fate. It didn't look bright for them before kickoff, but without a win QPR are officially relegated from the Premier League for the second time in three seasons. QPR's Leroy Fer bounced a shot off Hart's crossbar as halftime neared, but the hosts headed to the break up two goals and tripled that output in the second half.
Aguero made it three within five minutes of the restart on a counter that combined Aguero's pinpoint finishing and QPR's generosity. A Silva's pass dinged off Yun Suk-Young near the halfway line into the path of Aguero, who turned a 1v1 against Green into his second of the day and a a 3-0 City lead that essentially finished the match off with 40+ minutes to play. Not many goalkeepers in the world have a chance when Aguero is given such a chance, and Green was no exception.
Silva won a penalty in the 65th minute, and there wasn't much doubt who'd step to the spot to finish it off. Aguero blasted it past Green, completing his fifth career Manchester City hat trick and pushing his Premier League goal tally to 25. A few minutes later, James Milner, hangin' out all by himself around the QPR six-yard box, tapped in Aguero's pass across the face of Green's goal to make it 5-0.
Yaya Toure, Wilfried Bony, and Jesus Navas all made late cameos for City and tried to push the lead. Bony hit QPR's post, and Toure looked eager to score with a couple dangerous shots. Five minutes from time, Bony found Silva on a backheel assist that sent the Spaniard into the QPR box, and Silva dribbled past a flailing Green to finish and reward himself for his creative efforts with a goal, completing City's half-dozen haul.
On City's back line, Martin Demichelis and Eliaquim Mangala partnered once again in a defensive group unchanged from last week's shutout against Spurs. Despite a few close calls, the City defense held up in their second consecutive clean sheet to go with the offensive explosion. Vincent Kompany was fit enough for the bench but did not feature for City.
Five points clear of fourth-place Manchester United, there's still a tiny bit work to be done to avoid the Champions League play-in round and the unenviable trip that goes along with it. Up next for City will be trip to Swansea City in one week's time, before wrapping up the PL season by welcoming West Ham to the Etihad. Arsenal, City's competition for second place, have a couple games in hand, first hosting Swansea on Monday night.
MCFC: Joe Hart; Aleks Kolarov, Martin Demichelis, Eliaquim Mangala, Pablo Zabaleta; Fernando, Fernandinho (Yaya Toure 75'), Frank Lampard (Wilfried Bony 63'), James Milner (Jesus Navas 82'), David Silva; Sergio Aguero
QPR: Rob Green; Clint Hill, Richard Dunne, Steven Caulker; Yun Suk-Young (Shaun Wright-Phillips 86'), Karl Henry, Joey Barton, Matt Phillips; Leroy Fer (Niko Kranjcar 78'), Bobby Zamora (Junior Hoilett 52'), Charlie Austin
4' -- Aguero (1-0)
32' -- Kolarov (2-0)
49' -- Aguero (3-0)
65' -- Aguero (4-0)
69' -- Milner (5-0)
86' -- Silva (6-0)