Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola said striker Sergio Aguero “deserves all the credit” for his side’s 5-1 win over Leicester after scoring four second-half goals.
The Argentina international took his tally to 13 in 10 games in 2018 with another display of deadly finishing, aided by a brilliant performance by Kevin de Bruyne, who set up his side’s first three goals
Guardiola, who saw his side win their 13th home game of the season to move 16 points clear at the top of the Premier League table, said: “Sergio fought hard and he is so important to us.
“We played quite similar to the way we played in our draw against Burnley last week, but the difference here was we took our chances.
“Sergio does not always have a big presence in games, for example in the first half when they had four or five guys at the back and there was almost no space.
“But always he is still focused and you know that he is still there and sooner or later he will score. That is why he made our second goal look easy, but he had to be there. Scoring one goal changed his mood and after that he was able to get more and more.”
Leicester winger Riyad Mahrez, who almost joined Manchester City at the end of January, received an ovation from both sets of fans as he returned from his self-imposed exile to make an appearance as a second-half substitute.
Whether Mahrez’s move to Etihad Stadium is resurrected in the summer remains to be seen, but this display from Pep Guardiola’s side showed that they can cope pretty well without him – especially with De Bruyne and Aguero in this form.
Is De Bruyne at Ballon d’Or level? Yes, says Pep
Asked afterwards if De Bruyne was playing at a level that made him a contender for the Ballon d’Or, Guardiola replied: “The way he is playing, I have no doubt.
“It is not just one game, it is all season every three days that he is playing that way. But he knows and everyone knows that to win it, you have to win lots of titles, and especially one – the Champions League.
“The way he played here, though, it is difficult to find another one [as good] in Europe.
The Belgian now has 14 Premier League assists this season, four more than his team-mate Leroy Sane.
|Most Premier League assists this season|
|14: Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City)||8: David Silva (Manchester City)|
|10: Leroy Sane (Manchester City)||7: Dele Alli (Tottenham)|
|9: Paul Pogba (Manchester United)||7: Riyad Mahrez (Leicester)|
|8: Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Arsenal)||7: Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)|
His first of the game came when he picked out Raheem Sterling at the back post to put the home side ahead in the third minute, with Sterling converting from almost an identical position to where he had missed against Burnley last weekend.
Leicester, playing with five at the back and using Jamie Vardy’s pace on the break, did not roll over and levelled when Nicolas Otamendi’s mistake let the England striker in to score.
But Manchester City resumed control with two goals in the space of five minutes at the start of the second half.
Another brilliant De Bruyne cross put the ball on a plate for Aguero to fire home from close range and the pair combined again soon afterwards, with De Bruyne slipping the Argentine clear to score with a powerful finish.
Aguero, who has now scored in seven consecutive home games at Etihad Stadium, was not finished yet and helped himself to his fourth goal with a dinked finish from Schmeichel’s disastrous clearance.
And he completed the scoring with his best goal of the night, collecting the ball from substitute Phil Foden on the edge of the area and finding the net via the underside of the bar.
Aguero firing Man City nearer to the title
- Aguero has scored in seven consecutive games at the Etihad Stadium in all competitions (14 goals) for the first time in his Manchester City career, including two hat-tricks in his last three games.
- This was the third time Aguero has scored four or more goals in a single Premier League match, more than any other player in the competition’s history.
- Aguero is the fourth player to score 20 plus goals in four consecutive Premier League campaigns – after Alan Shearer, Thierry Henry (five) and Harry Kane.
Injuries mean City lack attacking options at present – their three forward players on the bench against the Foxes, Lukas Nmecha, Foden and Brahim Diaz are all teenagers.
But Aguero has not ducked the responsibility handed to him since Gabriel Jesus was injured against Crystal Palace on New Year’s Eve and his form since then has been devastating.
The 29-year-old now has 21 Premier League goals for the season and, although he remains 12th on the all-time PL scorers list, he is now only one behind Robin van Persie and three off Teddy Sheringham who are immediately above him.
With De Bruyne pulling the strings, Aguero will not lack chances to add to his tally although he will have to wait for his next opportunity in the Premier League.
Because they are in FA Cup and then the Carabao Cup final, this was Manchester City’s last league game of the month.
Their next one is against Arsenal, also their opponents at Wembley, at Emirates Stadium on Thursday, 1 March.
By then, second-placed Manchester United could have closed the gap to 10 points if they win their next two games, but on this evidence, City fans will still have little to worry about.
Analysis – One of the best ever
Former Manchester City and Leicester striker Paul Dickov on BBC Radio Leicester:
“It is hard to compare eras. There is Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ who went the whole season without losing, but this team is better.
“People will say they haven’t won anything – they have already won the league.
“The confidence, the enthusiasm, the age of the team. This team will go down as one of the best ever.”
Puel: “We are stronger with our best players in the team”
Mahrez returned to training on Friday after a 10-day absence that had seen him miss two games following the breakdown of his move to Manchester.
The Algerian started the game on the bench but was brought on for Fousseni Diabate after 62 minutes, with his side 3-1 down.
He made only nine touches in the opposition half and made little impact, but his involvement made it clear that his manager Claude Puel has no intention of ostracising him.
Puel said afterwards: “The most important thing is that he came back to the training session, to the game.
“I said it was important he came back quickly so he could come straight back into the squad and of course we are stronger with our best player.
“He got on the pitch and worked hard. He showed he had a good fitness. Now it is important to look forward and put this behind us, with the next games coming up.”
Vardy, a big game player – the stats
- Manchester City have won 23 of their 27 Premier League games so far this season (drawn three, lost one), as many as they had in the entirety of 2016-17 in 38 matches.
- Both of Manchester City’s two quickest goals in the Premier League this season have been scored by Raheem Sterling (38 seconds v Watford and 125 seconds v Leicester City).
- Since making his debut for Werder Bremen in August 2012, Kevin de Bruyne has provided 77 assists in the big five European leagues – more than any other player in that time. The next best is Barcelona’s Lionel Messi with 76.
- Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy has scored in each of his last four Premier League games, his longest streak since his record 11-game run in Leicester City’s title winning season.
- Vardy is the first ever player to score against each of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham in the same Premier League season.
Manchester City are in action in the Champions League on Tuesday with the first leg of their last-16 tie with FC Basel in Switzerland (19:45 GMT) and return to domestic duty on Monday, 19 February with their FA Cup fifth-round tie at League One leaders Wigan, which is live on the BBC (19:55 GMT).
Leicester are also still in the FA Cup and host Championship side Sheffield United on Friday.
- 30OtamendiSubstituted forStonesat 81′minutes
- 14LaporteBooked at 83mins
- 35ZinchenkoSubstituted forDaniloat 65′minutes
- 17De Bruyne
- 25FernandinhoSubstituted forFodenat 80′minutes
- 8GündoganBooked at 73mins
- 20Bernardo Silva
- 15MaguireBooked at 89mins
- 25NdidiBooked at 71mins
- 14Adrien SilvaSubstituted forSimpsonat 45′minutes
- 3ChilwellSubstituted forIheanachoat 62′minutes
- 33DiabatéSubstituted forMahrezat 62′minutes
- 9VardyBooked at 83mins
- Mike Jones
- Shots on Target
Match ends, Manchester City 5, Leicester City 1.
Second Half ends, Manchester City 5, Leicester City 1.
Foul by Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City).
Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt saved. Jamie Vardy (Leicester City) header from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Wilfred Ndidi with a cross.
Goal! Manchester City 5, Leicester City 1. Sergio Agüero (Manchester City) right footed shot from outside the box to the high centre of the goal. Assisted by Phil Foden.
Harry Maguire (Leicester City) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Harry Maguire (Leicester City).
Phil Foden (Manchester City) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Matty James (Leicester City).
Foul by Bernardo Silva (Manchester City).
Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Attempt missed. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City) right footed shot from outside the box is too high. Assisted by Bernardo Silva.
Offside, Manchester City. Sergio Agüero tries a through ball, but Raheem Sterling is caught offside.
Jamie Vardy (Leicester City) is shown the yellow card.
Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City) is shown the yellow card.
Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Jamie Vardy (Leicester City).
Raheem Sterling (Manchester City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City).
Substitution, Manchester City. John Stones replaces Nicolás Otamendi.
Foul by Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City).
Danny Simpson (Leicester City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Manchester City. Phil Foden replaces Fernandinho.
Foul by Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City).
Jamie Vardy (Leicester City) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Goal! Manchester City 4, Leicester City 1. Sergio Agüero (Manchester City) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the centre of the goal.
Attempt saved. Nicolás Otamendi (Manchester City) left footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Ilkay Gündogan.
Corner, Manchester City. Conceded by Harry Maguire.
Attempt blocked. Sergio Agüero (Manchester City) right footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Kyle Walker.
Ilkay Gündogan (Manchester City) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Ilkay Gündogan (Manchester City).
Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Ilkay Gündogan (Manchester City) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City).
Attempt missed. Bernardo Silva (Manchester City) left footed shot from the right side of the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Kyle Walker.
Sergio Agüero (Manchester City) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City).