Kevin De Bruyne recorded an astonishing four-goal haul as Manchester City restored their three-point lead at the Premier League summit with a 5-1 win over Wolves.
In Ruben Dias, John Stones, and Kyle Walker, Pep Guardiola’s team were missing several key defenders as they looked to respond to Liverpool’s 2-1 win over Aston Villa on Tuesday, but recorded a routine victory courtesy of a talismanic showing from De Bruyne.
The Belgian’s hat-trick, sealed with a stunning left-footed strike from long range, put City in charge after Leander Dendoncker briefly restored parity in an absorbing first half.
De Bruyne grabbed a fourth to make the points safe before Raheem Sterling rounded off the scoring late on, as City took another huge step towards defending their title.
Guardiola’s men needed just seven minutes to hit the front, with De Bruyne playing a brilliant one-two with Bernardo Silva before drilling a low effort into the bottom-right corner.
Wolves responded within four minutes when Dendoncker converted Pedro Neto’s cut-back following a devastating counter-attack, but the visitors were back in front after 16 minutes when De Bruyne latched onto a loose ball to fire into the roof of the net.
The midfielder secured his treble nine minutes later as he arrowed a terrific strike into the bottom-left corner after 24 minutes.
The visitors were denied a fourth as Sterling was flagged offside having tucked home two minutes after the restart, but ended the contest when De Bruyne steered in after Rayan Ait Nouri’s weak clearance after 60 minutes.
De Bruyne teed up Phil Foden to side-foot against the post before Sterling wrapped up another dominant City win by tapping home a late fifth, with De Bruyne then striking the woodwork himself at the end of a terrific performance.
What does it mean? City remain in pole position
De Bruyne’s brilliance saw City overcome their defensive injury crisis to extend their unbeaten run to 10 Premier League games (eight wins, two draws) as they edge closer to consecutive titles.
With only West Ham and Aston Villa to play, Guardiola’s men require just four points to beat Liverpool to their eighth top-flight title.
Devastating De Bruyne stars
De Bruyne’s four strikes took him to 19 goals in all competitions this term, his best tally in a single season for the club, and restored City’s all-important advantage over Liverpool.
Meanwhile, the Belgian became just the second City player to score four goals in an away Premier League game, after Edin Dzeko did so at Tottenham in August 2011.
City extend record away run
The victory ensured City stretched their unbeaten away run to 17 away Premier League matches (14 wins, three draws) – the longest such sequence in the club’s league history.
However, Dendoncker’s goal prevented Guardiola’s side from keeping a sixth consecutive away clean sheet in the competition.
Key Opta Facts
– Manchester City have become the first team in English top-flight history to win five consecutive league games by a margin of at least three goals.
– City have won 45 points away from home in the Premier League this season – only three clubs have ever earned more on the road in a single season: Arsenal in 2001-02 (47), Chelsea in 2004-05 (48) and City themselves in 2017-18 (50).
– Wolves have lost nine Premier League home games this season, their second-highest tally in a single campaign after 2011-12 (13).
– Wolves were 3-1 down at half-time, shipping as many goals in the first half tonight as they had in the opening 45 minutes of their previous 11 Premier League games combined.
– Kevin De Bruyne’s hat-trick after 24 minutes is the third earliest treble scored from the start of a game in Premier League history, after Sadio Mane against Aston Villa in May 2015 (16) and Dwight Yorke against Arsenal in February 2001 (22).