Manchester City demolished a sorry Crystal Palace at the Etihad to retain their place at the top of the Premier League.
Goals from Sergio Aguero, Leroy Sané and Fabian Delph, as well as a Raheem Sterling brace, saw Guardiola’s men cruise past a Palace side yet to pick up a point- or even score a goal- this season.
City nearly took an early lead when Mamadou Sakho headed a Kevin De Bruyne cross nervously onto his own post, before Palace hit the woodwork themselves through Ruben Loftus-Cheek. It was one of several decent chances Palace created in a largely open first half that saw Benjamin Mendy forced off by injury after a rough tackle, replaced by Danilo on the left side of a four-man defence.
The breakthrough came minutes before the break courtesy of Leroy Sané, who clipped the ball via a deflection over Scott Dann and finished sweetly past Hennessey after receiving Silva’s perfect aerial ball. Shortly after the second goal, Ederson came bravely off his line to collect a dangerous ball chased by Benteke and did very well to keep it outside the box.
The Cityzens were vastly improved in the second half and quickly doubled their lead after Leroy Sané delivered an inch-perfect cross across the face of goal for Raheem Sterling to tap past the ‘keeper.
De Bruyne, at the heart of the action all game, was involved again in the third goal, delivering a swerving ball to Aguero behind the back post. The Argentine striker sent the ball back across goal with a cushioned volley for Sterling to grab an easy second, before himself making it 4-0 from another brilliant Sané cross.
At this point Pep Guardiola decided to start experimenting, taking off the powerful John Stones for fellow Englishman Delph, who took a spot at left-back, with Danilo moving over to his favoured side and Kyle Walker joining Otamendi in the centre. It was a bold move from a manager looking for a third consecutive league clean sheet, but his makeshift back four dealt well with the few threats Palace offered for the remainder of the game, and Walker’s marauding performance was a real highlight down the right.
The home side saved the best goal until last, though, as Delph found himself in acres of space on the left before cutting in and sending a beautiful right-footed shot curling away into the top corner. It could have been more, too, with a fairly clear Leroy Sané penalty appeal turned down by referee Mark Swarbrick.
Another victory puts the blues at the top of the Premier League, level on points with rivals Manchester United but now with a superior goal difference. If City were title contenders before, this third consecutive league thrashing must surely mark them as early favourites.
Manchester City: Ederson (7), Walker (7), Stones (7), Otamendi (6), Mendy (6), Fernandinho (7), De Bruyne (8), Silva (9), Sterling (8), Aguero (8), Sané (9)
Subs: Danilo (6), Bernardo Silva (6), Delph (7)
Crystal Palace: Hennessey (6), Fosu-Mensah (6), Dann (5), Sakho (6), Van Aanholt (6), Milivojevic (5), Cabaye (5), Townsend (5), Loftus-Cheek (6), Schlupp (5), Benteke (4)
Subs: Puncheon (5), Sako (5)
Man of the Match
While David Silva, Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero all influenced the scoreline, Leroy Sané was electric all afternoon, giving the Palace defence a torrid time and contributing two fine assists and an equally beautiful goal.
Roy Hodgson will not be overjoyed by the fact that Palace’s next two games are another trip to Manchester to face Mourinho’s United followed by a visit from Chelsea at Selhurst Park.
Manchester City welcome Ukranian side Shaktar Dontesk to the Etihad on Tuesday night, before travelling to Stamford Bridge to take on second place Chelsea. On the evidence of today’s game, it has all the makings of a modern classic.