Cape Town – Gabriel Jesus scored twice as Manchester City produced an outstanding display to thrash Stoke 7-2 and move two points clear at the top of the Premier League on Saturday.
City scored seven goals for the first time under Pep Guardiola, and for only the second time in the Premier League, as Raheem Sterling, David Silva, Fernandinho, Leroy Sane and Bernardo Silva were also on target at Eastlands.
All of this was achieved without star striker Sergio Aguero, left as an unused substitute after recovering from a broken rib suffered in a taxi crash just over two weeks ago.
City were 3-0 up after 27 minutes before Stoke briefly threatened a revival through Mame Biram Diouf’s strike and a Kyle Walker own goal.
But Guardiola’s team then powered away to secure an emphatic win that took their goal tally to 24 in their last five league games and put distance between the leaders and second-placed Manchester United.
Stoke looked stretched from the early minutes, and Sane should have given the home side a seventh minute lead, lifting a shot over the bar from close range after Kevin De Bruyne’s cross from the right had flicked off Kevin Wimmer.
City’s full-backs are a much greater attacking threat this season, with Fabian Delph slotting in seamlessly on the left following a long-term injury to Benjamin Mendy.
It was Delph who tested Jack Butland with a long-range effort that the Stoke goalkeeper gathered comfortably, but it was right-back Walker who was central to the stylish move from which Guardiola’s team took a 17th-minute lead.
Walker, played in down the right by De Bruyne’s finely judged pass in behind Wimmer, reached the byline and cut the ball back for Jesus to sweep in.
Barely had Stoke absorbed that setback when they fell two goals behind, and again, the build-up play was wonderful.
Sane cut in from the left on to De Bruyne’s return pass, before rolling across goal for Raheem Sterling to control and steer in his sixth goal in six Premier League appearances this season.
A third goal for Guardiola’s team arrived with just 27 minutes played.
This time, Jesus fed Sane down the left, and the Germany international played the ball across goal for Sterling to steer back into the middle, where David Silva stretched to slot home.
Stoke pulled a goal back just before half-time when Diouf surged past Delph down the right, and then received Jese’s first-time backheel to score from 15 yards.
City continued to seek more goals and only a good diving save from Butland prevented De Bruyne from finding the corner of the net.
Stoke pulled another one back barely 90 seconds after the interval, with Tom Edwards crossing for Diouf, whose header was deflected in off the post by Walker.
Sadly for Edwards, his afternoon was ended by injury shortly afterwards, as he was carried off on a stretcher.
City, having recovered their composure, then sprinted forward to extend their lead once more.
De Bruyne was involved once again, haring down the right side before crossing low for Jesus to steer high into the net from six yards.
It was the signal for another City goal surge; Fernandinho took on Delph’s short pass to hammer in a 25-yard shot off the underside of the bar for the fifth.
The outstanding De Bruyne was involved once again for the sixth goal, splitting the Stoke defence with a sublime diagonal pass for Sane, arriving from the left, to steer between Butland’s legs.
Substitute Bernardo Silva poked in his first City goal for the seventh, after Yaya Toure and Sterling had combined to set him up. – AP