Rampant Man City crush West Brom to return to the top


Soccer Football - Premier League - West Bromwich Albion v Manchester City - The Hawthorns, West Bromwich, Britain - January 26, 2021 West Bromwich Albion's Kyle Bartley in action Pool via REUTERS/Laurence Griffiths

WEST BROMWICH, England (Reuters) - Manchester City moved to the top of the Premier League table in emphatic fashion on Tuesday by crushing West Bromwich Albion 5-0 at the Hawthorns after a blistering first half display.

City, who scored three goals in the opening half hour, have 41 points, one more than rivals Manchester United who have also played 19 games and will return to the summit if they beat bottom club Sheffield United at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

German international Ilkay Gundogan scored twice and was at the heart of City's hugely impressive display as Pep Guardiola's side delivered the kind of football that took them to title wins in 2018 and 2019.

Gundogan put City ahead in the sixth minute, showing great control as he collected a pass from Joao Cancelo and curled a shot into the far corner.

Cancelo then made it 2-0 with another fine strike into the same corner, although West Brom were unhappy that the assistant's flag was raised before he shot for an offside which was not confirmed by VAR, allowing the goal to stand.

The impressive Gundogan added his second and City's third on the half-hour, when he robbed Romaine Sawyers on the edge of the box, danced past Dara O'Shea and fired home.

On the stroke of halftime, Riyad Mahrez made it 4-0 with a trademark strike, cutting in from the right and blasting a left-foot shot into the far top corner past goalkeeper Sam Johnstone.

Mahrez turned provider after the interval, with his low ball across the face of the penalty area tapped in from close range by Raheem Sterling in the 57th minute.

It was City's 11th straight victory in all competitions.

ATTACKING PLAY

"The team, every game is there," said Guardiola, who was without key midfielder Kevin De Bruyne and striker Sergio Aguero but hardly lacked for attacking options.

"The way we play, everyone is involved in the attack and the play and creating chances and trying to score - it doesn't matter, it is important to arrive in the box and create chances," added the Spaniard, who was not surprised at Gundogan making the most of a more advanced role.

"Ilkay has the scent - when he plays close to the box he has the scent to makes good runs and with quality on the ball he is always there."

West Brom remain second-bottom on 11 points, six points from the safety zone. They have conceded 22 goals in their last five home league games, the most a team have allowed across five top-flight matches since Aston Villa in December 1935 (22).

Winger Robert Snodgrass, making his home debut after a move from West Ham United, said they had to quickly bounce back.

"I'm here for the fight. We did everything we possibly could and I think if you look back at this, as a team, we'll realise that isn't good enough.

"We're not going to try and blame everyone else. We're going to take it on the chin and dust ourselves down. (there's) no hiding place in the Premier League, these top boys punish you."

(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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