- Tom Cayless
Review and Player Ratings as De Bruyne tears Wolves apart – Wolves 1-5 Manchester City
With the title race ever-closer to reaching its conclusion, Pep Guardiola's side travelled down to the Molineux Stadium in the search of another three points toward the Premier League title. The Blues produced perhaps their best away performance of the season in a 5-1 victory.
Four goals from Kevin De Bruyne, including a first-half hat-trick, and a late fifth from Raheem Sterling did the job for City as they went back three points clear of Liverpool at the top of the Premier League.
With a late-season defensive injury crisis rotting through the City squad, Guardiola was limited in his choices. In his pre-match press conference, the boss confirmed that the trio of Kyle Walker, John Stones and Ruben Dias would miss the end of the season. Nathan Ake wasn't fit enough to start too, leaving City with only three fit defenders. Joao Cancelo, Aymeric Laporte and Oleksandr Zinchenko started alongside Fernandinho in defence.
As for going forward, Pep roulette was in full swing. Despite an impressive performance against Newcastle, Jack Grealish was swapped for Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva came in for Gabriel Jesus.
Six minutes was all it took for City to take the lead. Wolves keeper, Jose Sa, launched a long ball forwards in the direction of Chiquinho, but the Portuguese winger was beaten to the ball by Zinchenko. The Ukrainian then slipped the ball through to De Bruyne, who then played a simple one-two with Silva around the home defence. The first-time across goal strike from the Belgian proved to be too much for Sa, who couldn't get down quick enough to deny the opener.
Just moments later, Wolves had an equaliser. Mexican striker, Raul Jiminez struggled off Rodri and played a neat ball through to Pedro Neto down City's right side. The young winger waited and squared the ball back across to Leonardo Dendonker, who slammed through the legs of an unsighted Ederson into the back of the net.
It didn't take long after that for De Bruyne's second. The Belgian flicked Sterling in on goal, but City's No.7 wasn't quick enough to get onto the end of the ball. De Bruyne didn't give up, however, and followed in to score from the ricochet off Sa.
Midway through the first half, De Bruyne grabbed both his and City's third. After Sterling went down under a tackle from the Wolves defence, the Belgian raced across the pitch with the ball from the right-hand side and smashed a low sledgehammer-like effort into the bottom left corner for the third-quickest Premier League hat-trick (from the first minute) and his first-ever for City. Just to top it off, the Belgian ran straight to the away fans and celebrated in the same fashion as City's newest recruit, Erling Haaland.
Not long after the half-time break, City and once again De Bruyne grabbed a fourth. The Blues attacked the Wolves defence at breakneck speed before Foden squared the ball back to Sterling. The ball was slightly behind the Englishmen but De Bruyne arrived late into the box to slot the ball into the bottom right corner. The first of his four goals with his stronger right foot – simply incredible.
As perfect as things were going for City, things weren't all rosy. City's only fully-fit centre-half, Laporte, was subbed off injured. It looked to be an impact injury on his knee. The severity of the situation will likely be clarified over the coming hours/days. To compound issues, Fernandinho also went off with what has now been confirmed by Guardiola as a muscular issue. The pair will be assessed ahead of West Ham away in just four days.
The Premier League champions added a fifth but this time through Sterling with the final whistle looming. The Blues cut through Wolves like a knife through butter, Cancelo found Grealish and received it back from the £100m man. The Portuguese's deflected cross fell into the path of Sterling, who tapped into an empty net.
Ederson - 7
Cancelo - 7
Fernandinho - 7
Laporte - 7
Zinchenko - 7
Rodri - 7
Gundogan - 7
De Bruyne - 10
Sterling - 7
Silva - 7.5
Foden - 8
Substitutes: Ake (7) Mahrez (6.5) Grealish (6.5)
That was simply incredible, genuinely unbelievable from the Blues. De Bruyne once again proved he is a cut above the rest in the league, perhaps even the world. Some fans were, I'm sure, quietly worried about tonight. We don't have the best record at Molineux, only winning one of our previous three visits, only one fit central defender and Wolves always seem to turn up against us. But, once again, we were proved to never doubt the side when they need to win.
Guardiola and co next go down to London to face West Ham on Sunday, a game in which a win would all but guarantee the title.
Oh, and Erling Haaland is joining this team.
Written by: @TomCayless_
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