Manchester City have made an emphatic statement about their Premier League title intentions with a superb 3-1 victory at Chelsea at the end of what has been a difficult week for Pep Guardiola’s contenders.
City’s win followed a fine 2-1 win for Leicester City at Newcastle United that also maintained the Foxes’ title push as they moved third in the table.
Even deprived of half-a-dozen players because of coronavirus and having earlier on Sunday expressed their disappointment that defender Benjamin Mendy had breached COVID-19 rules, City were back at their fluent best.
First-half goals from Ilkay Gundogan, Phil Foden and Kevin De Bruyne, answered only by a stoppage time consolation from Callum Hudson-Odoi, saw fifth-placed City move to within four points of leaders Liverpool while still having a game in hand.
It was one of their best performances of an uneven season as they jumped ahead of Chelsea, who now lie eighth in a congested top flight table.
The match was over 10 minutes before halftime after Foden set up Gundogan for the opener on 18 minutes and the England man then scored the second soon after from an assist by the irrepressible De Bruyne.
The Belgian powerhouse then put the game out of Chelsea’s reach with the third 11 minutes before the break and Guardiola’s men cruised through the second half before Hudson-Odoi’s goal.
City now trail fourth-placed Tottenham only on goal difference and are three points behind Leicester, who themselves sit just a point behind Liverpool and Manchester United.
City, though, have two games in hand over Leicester and have also played a game less than the other three sides.
Leicester’s hero was Youri Tielemans, who scored a superb 72nd minute goal to add to James Maddison’s 55th-minute opener as the Foxes won thanks to a couple of rare pieces of quality in an otherwise ordinary game on wintry Tyneside.
Even Jamie Vardy was strangely off key as he repeatedly strayed offside, although it was his astute pull-back which allowed Maddison to open the scoring.
Newcastle briefly gave themselves hope when substitute Andy Carroll scored his first goal for the club in more than 10 years as time ran down, but it proved to be too little, too late.
Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers was not allowing himself or anyone to get carried away with the Foxes’ third place.
Asked afterwards if his targets had changed, he said: “No, it’s still the same. My ambition is to get into Europe again and for us to progress. We want to be a team that year on year can get European football.”
With 18 minutes remaining, Marc Albrighton had found space on the right before picking out Belgian Tielemans, who swept home without breaking stride on the edge of the box.
Carroll briefly threatened to spoil Leicester’s day after volleying his first Newcastle goal since Boxing Day 2010 with nine minutes left on the clock, but the 2016 champions protected their points with little difficulty.