Manchester City moved to within two points of leaders Arsenal with a convincing win over Wolves. An Erling Haaland hat-trick, his fourth treble of the season, was enough to give the blues the three points as they built on their midweek victory over Spurs.
Questions had been asked of the blues in recent weeks after a series of lacklustre performances had seen the blues lose ground in the title race. After making a winning return to the Premier League after the World Cup, a dismal 1-1 draw with Everton and a 2-1 loss at Old Trafford put a huge dent in City’s hopes of claiming a third successive Premier League title.
That, coupled with an abject display at Southampton, where City were dumped out of the League Cup, led to some believing City had lost the fight, even questioning whether Haaland, who has now scored an incredible 31 goals from 26 matches for the blues, was the problem.
And for 45 minutes against Spurs, City looked more like a team fighting for their place in mid-table than title chasers, conceding two quick goals to Spurs, before staging a remarkable comeback to win 4-2. Before the match, manager Pep Guardiola said that would not always happen and if the team play like that against Arsenal, then City would be destroyed by the Gunners.
We’ll certainly find that out in the next few weeks, but relegation contenders Wolves were next on the agenda. The Black Country club had only won one game away all season and defeat, together with results elsewhere going against them, could have seen them fall into he dreaded drop zone. Luckily for the visitors, results went their way and they’ve managed to stay above the bottom three for at least another week, despite the blues taking them apart.
Guardiola made just two changes from the team that beat Spurs, with Aymeric Laporte replacing Nathan Ake and Kevin de Bruyne coming in for Julian Alvarez. Phil Foden was unavailable, with Guardiola stating the midfielder was not fit enough to feature.
It looked like being another one of those days for City; plenty of possession but no end product, combined with a referee and VAR that, once again, were woefully inadequate.
Guardiola was critical of the fans in midweek, when it was perceived they booed their team at half-time while 2-0 down. Many of the supporters were vocal on social media, saying this was aimed towards the referee rather than the team, but the opening stages didn’t really give the fans much to shout about.
A feisty opening lead to a flurry of bookings by referee David Coote, including the Wolves boss as City attempted to put the visitors into a stranglehold. Wolves tactics of stopping and starting play looked like they would frustrate the blues and disrupt their normal flowing style of play, The blues toiled away and gradually started to knock on the visitor’s door, with Jack Grealish, who has been in outstanding form recently, looking particularly menacing.
With the visitors not having a shot on target, the belief grew and the opener eventually came from the head of Haaland, De Bruyne’s cross into the box found the Nordic Meat Shield to power home his header and send City on their way to three points.
Moments later, Grealish went down in the penalty area under a heavy challenge Nathan Collins. To the utter disbelief of the crowd, VAR decided it wasn’t a penalty and play continued. The Wolves defender, who saw red when the two teams played each other in September, then saved his team with two clearances as the blues threatened to run riot.
Just the one goal at the break separated the two teams, but with the fans in good voice and Haaland looking in the mood for more, the blues came out for the second half looking to put the game to bed.
And they did just that within the first five minutes. Ruben Neves’ clumsy challenge on Ilkay Gundogan saw the referee point to the spot and Haaland made no mistake from 12 yards to score goal number 30 in a blue shirt.
Four minutes later, the Norwegian went further ahead in the pursuit for the golden boot when he converted Riyad Mahrez’ pass to complete his hat-trick. The Algerian, who has been in excellent goalscoring form recently, could have scored himself, but unselfishly laid the ball of to Haaland to finish.
The striker left the field of play seven minutes later and, although Mahrez had a goal chalked off for offside, City relaxed, saving a bit of energy for the visit of Arsenal in the FA Cup next weekend.
Final Score: Manchester City 3-0 Arsenal