Manchester City scorched to the top of the Premier League with a ruthless 5-1 win at Tottenham Hotspur as Chelsea’s title ambitions were hit by a 0-0 home draw with West Ham United on Wednesday.
Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure, Edin Dzeko, Stevan Jovetic and Vincent Kompany were on target as City followed their 6-0 thrashing of Spurs in the reverse fixture this season with another thrilling exhibition of attacking football.
They were helped on their way by a controversial decision to send off Tottenham defender Danny Rose for a foul on Dzeko, for which City were awarded the penalty which Toure converted for the second goal.
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Yet they ruthlessly exploited the extra man to move to 53 points, one clear of Arsenal and three ahead of Chelsea, who were frustrated by a fiercely resilient West Ham side at Stamford Bridge.
Aston Villa emerged with the spoils from the night’s most entertaining fixture, edging a seven-goal thriller 4-3 against midlands rivals West Bromwich Albion having fallen 2-0 down after nine minutes.
Sunderland eased their worries by moving out of the relegation zone with a 1-0 win over Stoke City.
Manchester City’s mauling of Tottenham at the Etihad Stadium in November was the trigger for an unbeaten run that now stands at 20 games in all competitions.
Confidence was clearly bubbling to the surface as they began with the swagger of potential title winners, putting their foot on Tottenham’s throat with their high-tempo pressing.
Aguero, who later hobbled off with a hamstring injury, broke the deadlock after 15 minutes by sliding a precise finish past Hugo Lloris after David Silva had picked out his run with a delicate throughball.
It was his 50th Premier League goal and ensured he became the fifth fastest to reach the milestone behind Andy Cole, Alan Shearer, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Fernando Torres.
Tottenham felt aggrieved to have a goal chalked off as Michael Dawson was adjudged offside when side-footing in a Christian Eriksen free kick, but their annoyance was multiplied when City doubled their lead.
Rose dived in from behind to tackle Dzeko and appeared to take the ball but the linesman flagged for a penalty, the Tottenham defender was dismissed and Toure sweetly slammed home from the penalty spot.
The third followed almost immediately when Dzeko pounced on a rebound to score his seventh goal in six games, and despite Etienne Capoue briefly raising the home fans’ spirits with a consolation, there was more misery to follow.
Jovetic, Aguero’s replacement, scored his first Premier League goal when he cut inside and curled the ball past Lloris and Kompany showed quick reflexes to add a fifth when a Dzeko shot cannoned off Nabil Bentaleb.
“I don’t want to talk about the title, I’m just so happy with the win and the way we played,” City captain Kompany said.
“It’s a great time to be part of Manchester City. It’s bad news of course (about Sergio Aguero’s injury) but we will have to see. I don’t know how bad it is but the good news is that Stevan Jovetic stepped up and showed the player he can be.”
Prior to Wednesday, West Ham had lost five of their previous six and conceded 19 but they found some previously undiscovered steel to hold Chelsea at bay.
Oscar had a shot that crashed against the bar while West Ham keeper Adrian did well to repel efforts from John Terry and Samuel Eto’o, much to the frustration of Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, who was scathing of West Ham’s lack of ambition.
“I give them credit for getting what they want,” he said on Sky Sports. “I am nobody to criticise. But if I was at home watching, I would turn off and watch something else.”
His opposite number Sam Allardyce disagreed.
“Jose is going to say ‘how you play like this?’ We’re in a relegation battle, we can’t play like Man United and get beat 3-0,” he said.
There was no shortage of goals at Villa Park, where West Brom took the game by the scruff of the neck thanks to Chris Brunt’s fourth-minute opener and a Fabian Delph own goal.
But Villa were ahead after 37 minutes thanks to goals from Andreas Weimann and Leandro Bacuna, while Delph found the net at the right end.
Youssouf Mulumbu equalised but Christian Benteke netted from the penalty spot to win it for Villa.
Sunderland have now lost only one of their last eight league games after Adam Johnson tapped home from close range against Stoke, who had Steven N’Zonzi sent off eight minutes into the second half.