Kevin De Bruyne scored four goals as Manchester City restored a three-point lead at the Premier League summit with a 5-1 win at Wolves.
The playmaker netted a left-footed hat-trick in the first 24 minutes and added another every hour as City demonstrated their firepower even before Erling Haaland arrives next season.
City’s win was also a strong response to title rivals Liverpool’s success over Aston Villa last night, cementing their grip on the title race with just two games to play.
De Bruyne’s show was briefly interrupted by an early goal from Leander Dendoncker, but a late tap-in from Raheem Sterling ensured they would score five goals in their second game in a row.
With the added security of a goal difference now plus seven goals better than their Merseyside rivals, City are nearing their fourth title in five seasons.
The only downside was the loss of Aymeric Laporte in the second half, who joined fellow defenders John Stones, Ruben Dias and Kyle Walker on the touchline.
Coach Pep Guardiola, who has already used Fernandinho as a makeshift centre-back and Nathan Ake wasn’t fit enough to start, will be anxiously awaiting any updates on the Spain international’s condition.
But Wednesday night was all about De Bruyne, although the Belgian made a nod to the day’s headlines by celebrating one of his goals in Haaland style.
The Wolves, whose manager Bruno Lage was absent for the second time in a row after testing positive for Covid-19, were overrun.
De Bruyne almost set up a goal in the opening moments but Phil Foden was inches away from scoring with his low ball.
His opening goal came after seven minutes when Wolves goalkeeper Jose Sa applied more pressure with a poor clearance.
Bernardo Silva controlled the ball and put De Bruyne on target with a fine through ball. De Bruyne made no mistake as he drilled a low shot past Sa.
But for all their attacking brilliance, City looked vulnerable in the absence of Stones and Dias.
Their weaknesses were revealed just four minutes later by a quick counterattack by Wolves.
Raul Jimenez made a chest clearance before pushing forward and releasing Pedro Neto who sped around the area waiting for Dendoncker to head home.
It was a goal that electrified home crowds – and will have been applauded by Liverpool fans elsewhere – but the celebrations were short-lived.
City were back in front just four minutes later. This time De Bruyne wanted to play in Sterling but Sa came out to intercept. The ball rolled back to De Bruyne, who shot back past the goalkeeper with the help of a deflector.
He went on to add an extra stamp to the class by completing his hat trick shortly thereafter.
His third was his own effort, cutting in from the right after a City throw-in and circling a superb left-footed shot from the edge of the area around Sa.
In their favor, Wolves tried to fight back and Chiquinho felt he should have been awarded a penalty after tangling with Oleksandr Zinchenko in the penalty area, but referee Martin Atkinson only gave a corner.
There were more penalty calls from both sides. First Sterling went down – after being brought in by De Bruyne – and then Wolves then quickly counterattacked and then claimed handball against Fernandinho.
Neither was given and Sterling was also denied by an offside flag after putting the ball in the net early in the second half.
De Bruyne grabbed his fourth after an hour after leading another break and finding Foden in the area. Foden looked inside for Sterling but his pass bounced off and kindly fell on De Bruyne to score again.
De Bruyne did wonders for City’s goal difference but Laporte’s injury after a clash with Jimenez dampened their joy somewhat.
But City kept pushing, hitting the post through Foden before Sterling hit his fifth late on.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/soccer/premier-league/man-city-move-closer-to-premier-league-title-as-kevin-de-bruyne-hits-four-goals-in-wolves-masterclass-41641142.html Man City are edging closer to the Premier League title as Kevin De Bruyne scores four goals in Wolves’ master class