Manchester City demolished West Bromwich Albion to go top of the Premier League for the first time this season with a 5-0 win at the Hawthorns.
It took just six minutes for Pep Guardiola’s side to take the lead through the outstanding Ilkay Gundogan, with the City playmaker curling a sublime finish past Sam Johnstone in the West Brom goal. And that was just the start of what turned out to be a torrid night for the Baggies.
Joao Cancelo made it two with a slightly controversial goal, lofting a tidy finish home when half of the West Brom defence had reacted to an offside flag. But the whistle hadn’t gone, VAR overruled the offside decision, and the goal stood.
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Gundogan all-but wrapped up the win with his second of the night on 30 minutes and Riyad Mahrez made the game safe with a fourth on the cusp of half-time.
Any hopes from West Brom that City would take their foot off the gas after the break didn’t last long, with the visitors continuing to make chance after chance despite both Gundogan and Phil Foden being withdrawn soon after the restart.
And Raheem Sterling added a brilliant fifth on 57 minutes when Rodri picked out Mahrez, who in turn found Sterling’s clever run with an exquisite first-time cross on the half volley – a goal of such quality that even Pep Guardiola couldn’t hide his delight on the City bench.
The result sends City top of the league, a point ahead of local rivals Manchester United after 19 games apiece. United could return to the summit with a win over Sheffield United on Wednesday evening, but Man City’s astonishing form (seven wins on the bounce with just one goal conceded) suggests they will take some stopping as the title race continues through the second half of the season.
Ilkay Gundogan (C) celebrates
Image credit: Getty Images
TALKING POINT – Can anyone stop City?
Manchester City have won seven on the spin playing the sort of football that makes them the clear favourites to win the Premier League. Defensively they have been superb, but the form of Gundogan and Foden in midfield has lifted them to a new level going forward.
The new league leaders were way too good for the Baggies this evening, constantly rotating positions in their striker-less formation and creating countless openings. The fact that they played such dangerous football without Kevin de Bruyne and Sergio Aguero should be even more of a concern for their rivals.
MAN OF THE MATCH – Ilkay Gundogan (Man City)
Man City’s German midfielder hasn’t always performed like the player the club hoped they had signed when he joined from Borussia Dortmund in 2016. But City's patience with the injury-prone 30-year-old has been more than worth it on the evidence of his form so far this season.
Gundogan was majestic for 50 minutes against West Brom, scoring two outstanding goals, pulling the strings in midfield, and stepping up in the absence of Kevin De Bruyne to act as the team’s biggest creative spark (which was no small feat in a side also containing the lively Sterling, Foden, Silva and Mahrez).
The fact that Guardiola gave him a rest for the final 40 minutes of the evening is a clear indication that the manager knows he’s got a player in really special form, and with Gundogan functioning at this level it makes City’s attack even harder to stop.
West Brom: Johnstone 6; Furlong 5, Ajayi 5, O’Shea 5, Gibbs 4; Snodgrass 4, Sawyers 4, Livermore 4, Pereira 4; Grant 5, Robinson 5. Subs: Bartley 6, Phillips 6, Robson-Kanu 6.
Man City: Ederson 6, Cancelo 9, Dias 8, Stones 8, Zinchenko 7, Gundogan 9, Rodrigo 7, Mahrez 7, Bernardo 7, Foden 8, Sterling 7. Subs: Jesus 6, Laporte 6, Torres 6.
6’ GOAL! West Brom 0-1 Man City (Gundogan): It's taken Man City just six minutes to open the scoring and it's the in-form Gundogan who's got it. He pulls the ball down brilliantly on the edge of the box before dispatching a terrific finish past a wrong-footed Johnstone. 1-0 City.
20’ GOAL! West Brom 0-2 Man City (Cancelo): Cancelo curls a shot in from the edge of the box even though the offside flag is raised against Bernardo Silva. The decision goes upstairs to VAR, the offside is overturned, and the goal is given! That is very strange, half of the West Brom players had stopped, but the whistle hadn’t gone and the goal stands. 2-0!
30’ GOAL! West Brom 0-3 Man City (Gundogan): City have this in the bag and there’s only half-an-hour gone. Gundogan robs Sawyers of possession on the edge of the box, jinks back onto his left peg and slides a finish into the bottom corner past a helpless Johnstone. 3-0 and realistically that’s game over.
45’ GOAL! West Brom 0-4 Man City (Mahrez): It’s a fourth for City and Riyad Mahrez gets in on the act. Sterling picks him out with a floated cross-field pass and Mahrez cuts inside to open up space for a shot in a crowded penalty area before picking out the far corner. 4-0 and City are going top of the league.
57’ GOAL! West Brom 0-5 Man City (Sterling): It’s five for City as Raheem Sterling spins away from his marker and gets on the end of a first-time half-volleyed cross from Mahrez after Rodri's perfectly-weighted lofted pass. That’s a lovely goal and even Pep is impressed.
- Gundogan has scored seven Premier League goals this season – his best ever return for either Dortmund or City with 19 games of the campaign still remaining.
- Gundogan’s seven goals have all come in his last eight Premier League appearances.
- West Brom have played four games at home since Sam Allardyce took over as manager, in which they have conceded 17 and failed to score.
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