Manchester City turned in an exhilarating attacking display to sweep West Brom aside and take top spot in the Premier League for the first time this season.
Two first half goals from the in-form Ilkay Gundogan, and brilliant strikes from Joao Cancelo and Riyad Mahrez gave the blues a commanding 4-0 lead going into the break, while Raheem Sterling netted in the second half to complete the route and pile more misery on the hapless Baggies.
It could well have been more had Phil Foden’s first half shot not taken two deflections to hit the post and Rodri’s long range strike clipping the top of the crossbar as City threw down the gauntlet to their other title contenders.
It was only two months when the blues were being written off as title challengers, despite the season only starting in September. A 2- 0 defeat at Spurs left City in 11th place, 8 points behind the leaders and only having win 3 of their opening 8 matches. And it was the Baggies visit to the Etihad Stadium in December, where the visitors defended like their lives depended on it that even some of the faithful questioned if City had what it takes to win the title.
But the blues have, like they usually do, proved the doubters wrong, winning every game since that night just before Christmas, a run that has not only propelled them to the top of the Premier League, but also knocking in the goals for fun, despite rarely starting with a recognised striker.
West Brom didn’t start badly and had a couple of chances before City got going, with Darnell Furlong’s thro-in causing a bit of havoc in the box, and just a minute later, another Furlong throw fell for Semi Ajayi, but Ederson moved quickly to snuff out the danger. That was pretty much all the City keeper had to do for the rest of the game as City took control and camped in the Baggies half of the field.
Phil Foden, who was in inspired form at Cheltenham on Saturday, was again showing what he could do, and the home side breathed a sigh of relief as his shot on the left was deflected off the defender and tipped onto the post by keeper Sam Johnstone. The baggies number one played a blinder to keep City out in December, but on Tuesday evening, he wasn’t so lucky as City took the lead in the fifth minute.
Cancelo’s pass to Gundogan saw the German international swivel away from his marker and tuck his shot into the bottom corner. That was Gundogan’s sixth goal in eight games and the midfielder seems to have taken on the goal scoring responsibilities in the absence of Sergio Aguero. Gundogan almost played in Raheem Sterling in the 11th minute, but Dara O’Shea managed to clear the danger.
The blues were all over the home side, winning the ball back at every available opportunity, although the Baggies were often the architects of their own downfall, misplacing passes and giving the ball straight back to City, and it was no surprise when the blues went 2-0 up on 20 minutes, and as with last week’s win over Aston Villa, there was a little controversy surrounding the build-up.
Bernardo Silva initially looked offside, but as what is normal these the flag doesn’t go up until the move has ended, however on this occasion, the assistant raised her flag as Silva passed the ball. West Brom’s defenders seemed to stop playing, which allowed Cancelo the time to curl a shot past Johnstone to make it 2-0. VAR looked at it, deemed Silva onside and the goal stood.
If the home side were aggrieved with the second goal, there was no doubting the third. Gundogan caught Romaine Sawyers in possession and the German hit home number three. West Brom threw away a 3-0 half time lead to draw 3-3 with Chelsea earlier in the season, and they would have looked to that result to give them any sort of impetus for the second half, however any slim hopes they had were vanquished on the stroke of half-time.
City poured forward again and when the ball came to Sterling, he had the presence of mind to pick out Mahrez free on the right side of the penalty area. The Algerian cut inside and unleashed a left foot shot into the top corner for 4-0.
Gundogan and Foden were replaced within five minutes of the restart as Aymeric Laporte and Ferran Torres entered the fray, but there was no let up from the blues, who went in search of more goals. Rodri’s strike from outside the box clipped the top of the bar before a reverse Sterling-Mahrez combination struck again in the 57th minute.
The latter was released inside the penalty area and his pull back was met by Sterling who had the simple task of tapping home number five. City brought on Gabriel Jesus for Bernardo Silva four minutes after the fifth, and the Brazilian tried in vain to get on the scoresheet.
In the end it was more than enough for the blues to take the three points and leap-frog United to top the table.
Final Score: West Brom 0-5 Manchester City