Manchester City were in sensational form once again as they banged in another five goals to move three points clear at the top of the Premier League table. Kevin de Bruyne hit four, including first-half hat-trick and Raheem Sterling grabbed a fifth as City responded to Liverpool’s win at Aston Villa on Tuesday.
Questions had been asked about the blues mentality following their defeat to Real Madrid just one week ago, and some pundits went as far as saying that Liverpool would now have momentum going into the final games of the season, and tipped City’s rivals to pip the blues to the title.
But, after the reds 1-1 draw at home to Spurs, City have scored ten goals and conceded just one as they keep their rivals at bay. The blues opened up a three-point cushion at the top of the table by beating Newcastle 5-0 at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, and they maintained that margin with their latest convincing win.
It was just over a month ago that the home match against Liverpool was being billed as the title decider but, as we pointed out before that match, it would be the matches against Wolves and West Ham that would have a bigger say on the destination of the Premier League crown.
For City, matches against Wolves have shown an inconsistent pattern and the outcome every time the blues visit Molineux is unpredictable, as our statistics showed. Throw into the mix the absence of key defenders John Stone, Kyle Walker and Ruben Dias, City had to rely on their midfield and attack to do their part so the makeshift defence of Aymeric Laporte and Fernandinho could have a bit of an easy ride.
And, for the most part, that’s exactly what happened, apart from some poor defending just four minutes after City took the lead in the seventh minute.
De Bruyne, who has been outstanding all season, received the kind of pass he is used to providing, running onto Bernardo Silva’s through ball to fire home left footed at the far post and send City’s travelling hoards into dreamland.
The Belgian casually flicked a pass to Silva, whose first touch was full of control, and the Portuguese maestro slipped a perfect ball between two defenders for de Bruyne to run into, before the Belgian beat the keeper with a first-time shot across goal.
City were caught on the counter-attack just four minutes later as Leander Dendoncker levelled from twelve yards. A break on the Wolves right saw the play switched quickly to the left and, with City slow to get back, Dendoncker was left unmarked to fire home the equaliser.
Liverpool fans will have been celebrating the Wolves goal, but just five minutes later, de Bruyne would silence those cheers.
De Bruyne was found in acres of space in the final third but, with his back to goal, was quickly closed down, but the Belgian had the presence of mind to chip a pass to the onrushing Sterling. The home keeper got to the ball before the England man, but the rebound fell kindly to de Bruyne, who was only too happy to fire home into the roof of the goal.
Eight minutes later, de Bruyne completed his treble when he cut in from the right and curled a glorious left-foot finish around the keeper, before celebrating with an Erling Haaland meditation pose.
The Belgian is playing like he’s made it his own personal mission to ensure City win the league, and he got his and City’s fourth on 60 minutes. After playing in Phil Foden on the left side of the penalty area, de Bruyne kept running into the box and, after the defender got to Foden’s pass ahead of Sterling, de Bruyne was on hand to sweep the ball into the bottom corner.
City could, and perhaps should have had more throughout the course of the night, with Sterling guilty of some glaring misses, which really underlines why City were so determined to get a proven goalscorer for next season.
The England man also had a goal disallowed and City twice hit the woodwork as the blues threatened to put their goal difference well out of reach of their second-placed rivals.
Sterling did, however, finally get his goal, tapping in the fifth after Joao Cancelo’s charge forward and attempted shot was stopped by the back-tracking defender, only for the ball to roll into Sterling’s path to tap into an unguarded goal.
Barring a goal glut from Liverpool in their last two games of the season, four points will see City crowned champions for the second successive season. The blues now have a goal difference of +72, compared to Liverpool’s +65, and they could potentially win the league with a game to spare.
A win at West Ham, coupled with Liverpool dropping points at Southampton on Tuesday would be enough to see City lift the Premier League trophy in front of their home supporters when they entertain Aston Villa on the final day.
Final Score: Wolves 1-5 Manchester City