Kevin De Bruyne scored four goals as Manchester City defeated Wolves to move closer to the Premier League championship.
Before the interval, the Belgium international scored a hat-trick with his left foot. He scored his fourth in the second half as City proved their firepower ahead of the arrival of Erling Haaland in the summer.
This was a strong reaction to Liverpool’s 2-1 win against Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa on Tuesday night.
A Leander Dendoncker goal early on disrupted De Bruyne’s performance, but a late Raheem Sterling tap-in meant they scored five for the second game in a row.
Man City are closing in on their fourth championship in five seasons, with the added security of a goal differential plus seven greater than their Merseyside rivals.
The main setback was the late departure of Aymeric Laporte, who joined fellow defenders John Stones, Ruben Dias, and Kyle Walker on the bench.
Manager Pep Guardiola will be eagerly awaiting reports on the status of Spain international Fernandinho, who has already been used as a temporary center-back due to Nathan Ake’s inability to start.
However, the drama of Wednesday evening was all about De Bruyne, who gave a reference to the day’s news by celebrating one of his goals in the style of incoming signing Haaland.
Wolves were beaten despite the absence of manager Bruno Lage, who tested positive for Covid-19 for the second time in a row.
De Bruyne nearly scored right away, but Phil Foden was inches from connecting with his low ball.
After seven minutes, he scored after Wolves goalkeeper Jose Sa invited further pressure with a sloppy clearance.
With a wonderful through-pass, Bernardo Silva got the ball under control and slid De Bruyne in on goal. De Bruyne made no mistake, burying a low shot beyond Sa.
Despite their attacking prowess, City were vulnerable in the absence of Stones and Dias.
A quick Wolves counter-attack showed their flaws barely four minutes later.
Raul Jimenez pushed forward and released Pedro Neto, who sprinted into the area and squared for Dendoncker to tuck home.
The goal delighted the home crowd – and would have been applauded by Liverpool supporters overseas – but the joy was short-lived.
City took the lead again four minutes later. This time, De Bruyne attempted to play in Sterling, but Sa intercepted him. The ball drifted back to De Bruyne, who rifled past the keeper thanks to a deflection.
Soon later, he added an additional touch of distinction by completing his hat-trick.
His third goal was all his own doing, as he cut in from the right after a City throw-in and curled a brilliant left-foot shot around Sa from the outskirts of the box.
Wolves, to their credit, tried to battle back, and Chiquinho believed he should have had a penalty after colliding with Oleksandr Zinchenko in the area, but referee Martin Atkinson only awarded him a corner.
There were more penalty shouts from both ends. Sterling fell down after being passed in by De Bruyne, and Wolves then argued for handball on Fernandinho from their ensuing rapid counter.
Both were refused, and Sterling was also denied by an offside flag after scoring early in the second half.
On the hour, De Bruyne scored his fourth goal after leading another break and finding Foden in the box. Foden tried to find Sterling inside, but his ball ricocheted and landed beautifully for De Bruyne to score again.
De Bruyne was boosting City’s goal differential, but Laporte’s injury after a collision with Jimenez dampened their delight somewhat.
Nonetheless, City pressed on and struck the post via Foden before Sterling tapped in their fifth late on.