Soccer-Man City hammer Luton to move top

Soccer Football - Premier League - Manchester City v Luton Town - Etihad Stadium, Manchester, Britain - April 13, 2024 Manchester City's Erling Braut Haaland scores their third goal from the penalty spot REUTERS/Molly Darlington

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) -Champions Manchester City climbed to the top of the Premier League table after thrashing lowly Luton Town 5-1 on Saturday as Erling Haaland netted his 20th league goal of the season.

Pep Guardiola's team have 73 points with six games remaining in a compelling three-way title race, two ahead of Arsenal and Liverpool who can move above City with victories on Sunday. Relegation-threatened Luton are 18th and a point below the safety zone.

"For a few hours (we are top)," Guardiola told the BBC. "(Sunday) they have to play, all we can do is win our games and if we cannot do it we congratulate them."

City got on the scoreboard inside 70 seconds when Jeremy Doku's shot was deflected to Haaland whose volley smashed hard off Daiki Hashioka's face and into the net.

Although the game was played almost exclusively in Luton's defensive third, the visitors defended fiercely and the floodgates did not open for City until Mateo Kovacic scored in the 64th minute, picking the ball up on the edge of the box and shooting into the top corner of the net.

Haaland extended his league leading scoring record with a penalty in the 76th minute after Doku was taken down in the area.

Ross Barkley capitalised on a City defensive blunder to pull one back in the 84th minute before Doku's shot into the far corner after a dazzling dribble made it 4-1. Josko Gvardiol completed the rout seconds before the final whistle.

"Incredible guys," Guardiola said of Kovacic and Gvardiol. "Everyone has permission to score and it's so important."

City, seeking a fourth consective Premier League title, totally dominated the match with 73.7% possession and bombarded the visitors with 37 shots to their four.

"Today was always going to be very difficult... I don't want to sound defeatist, but almost made peace with it at the beginning," Luton manager Rob Edwards said. "We stayed in the game as long as we could.

"I'm proud of the lads, they gave everything. No one likes losing 5-1, but (City) are a brilliant football team. They suffocated us. It was a long day for us today."

Arsenal host Aston Villa on Sunday and Liverpool host Crystal Palace.

City have no time to rest on their laurels as they host Real Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday. The teams drew 3-3 in the opening leg. They then head to Wembley on Saturday for an FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea.

(Reporting by Lori Ewing, editing by Pritha Sarkar and Ed Osmond)

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