Kevin De Bruyne scored four goals as Manchester City overwhelmed Wolves 5-1 at Molineux to go three points clear at the top of the Premier League table and move within four points of the title
The Belgian took just 24 minutes to complete his hat-trick, making Leander Dendoncker’s early equaliser irrelevant, before adding a fourth goal in the second half.
Raheem Sterling scored a fifth but this night belonged to one man. It was a masterclass from the midfielder – his first-half triple all coming with his left foot – with the win restoring City’s three-point advantage over Liverpool with two games to go.
Wolves: Sa (5), Jonny (6), Coady (5), Boly (5), Chiquinho (7), Neves (6), Moutinho (5), Dendoncker (6), Neto (6), Jimenez (6).
Subs: Hwang (5), Trincao (6), Cundle (n/a).
Man City: Ederson (6), Cancelo (7), Fernandinho (6), Laporte (7), Zinchenko (6), Rodri (7), De Bruyne (10), Gundogan (7), Sterling (6), Bernardo (8), Foden (8).
Subs: Ake (6), Mahrez (6), Grealish (n/a).
Man of the match: Kevin De Bruyne.
Pep Guardiola will not have been pleased to see Aymeric Laporte trudge off injured, adding to his side’s personnel problems at the back. However, with four points needed from their remaining games to guarantee top spot, this was a huge step towards retaining the title.
Wolves made one change to the team that drew at Chelsea with the injured Romain Saiss making way for Chiquinho, the Portuguese winger coming in for his first Premier League start.
Manchester City made three changes to the team that thrashed Newcastle with Ruben Dias, Jack Grealish and Gabriel Jesus making way for Fernandinho, Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva.
It did not take long for City to underline their superiority. Bernardo Silva threading the ball in behind the defence and De Bruyne passing his shot into the far corner of the net. If there was a surprise it is that Wolves managed to find a quick-fire response of their own.
Raul Jimenez led a swift counter-attack, feeding Pedro Neto in the left channel and the young forward squared the ball to the onrushing Dendoncker who beat Ederson with a low shot to the goalkeeper’s left. Molineux erupted and – briefly – the home side had hope.
De Bruyne soon put a stop to that. It was his clever dink towards Sterling that caused confusion in the Wolves defence and the Belgian was quick to latch onto the loose ball in the aftermath with his deflected shot finding the roof of Jose Sa’s net.
City were purring by that point and the third goal was the pick of the bunch – again with his left foot and this time an absolute rocket, arrowing into the net as he cut inside from the right. The stadium was in shock, everyone aware they were witnessing greatness.
What followed was anything but tepid even with City in control as Wolves continued to attack, leaving gaps at the back and causing problems through the livewire Chiquinho. On his first start for the club, he almost won a penalty when Oleksandr Zinchenko lunged in.
Sterling had the ball in the net early in the second half but was adjudged offside, while Wolves continued to push at the other end, finding space down the flanks. Nobody else on the pitch seemed capable of what one man made look easy. Enter De Bruyne again.
Arriving late into the box to seize upon a City counter-attack, this time he did hit the ball with his right foot, once again coolly beating Sa and racing away towards the jubilant away end. Four goals in a game.
There was still time for Sterling to add a fifth from close range to seal the rout, while De Bruyne hit the post when going for his own fifth. By then, Wolves’ spirit had been broken. Overwhelmed by one of the most outrageous individual performances of the season.
Man of the match: Kevin De Bruyne
This was the Kevin De Bruyne show. The expected-goals total for City’s seven shots in the first half at Molineux was just 0.52 – in other words, attempts from those positions would usually yield one goal every other game. De Bruyne scored three inside 24 minutes.
The first was measured into the corner, the second was a credit to his anticipation after some ingenuity to fashion the chance in the first place. The third showcased the power in those boots of his, the ball flashing into the net to draw gasps from the crowd.
Three different goals but all with his so-called weaker left foot. He added a fourth with his right. Nobody should be too surprised. De Bruyne continues to deliver. In a special City team, one soon to be bolstered by Erling Haaland, he is the special player.
Man City’s win in stats
- Manchester City have become the first team in English top-flight history to win five consecutive league games by a margin of at least three goals.
- City have won 45 points away from home in the Premier League this season – only three clubs have ever earned more on the road in a single season: Arsenal in 2001-02 (47), Chelsea in 2004-05 (48) and City themselves in 2017-18 (50).
- Kevin De Bruyne’s hat-trick after 24 minutes is the third earliest hat-trick scored from the start of a game in Premier League history, after Sadio Mane against Aston Villa in May 2015 (16) and Dwight Yorke against Arsenal in February 2001 (22).
Wolves are back in action at Molineux on Sunday when they host already-relegated Norwich. They finish up their season with a trip to face Liverpool at Anfield.
Manchester City travel to West Ham on the same day, with the chance to strengthen their grip on the title before completing their campaign against Aston Villa at the Etihad Stadium on the final day.