West Brom 0 Manchester City 4: Aguero and Gundogan at the double to end City slump
Sergio Aguero and Ilkay Gundogan scored braces in each half to end Manchester City's six-game winless run in all competitions with a 4-0 victory at West Brom.
Having started only three of the matches in question, Aguero was without a goal in the same period, but a pair of fine finishes took him to seven for the season in the Premier League and 13 overall.
The welcome three-point haul moves Pep Guardiola's men back to the Premier League summit on goal-difference it, with the manager's latest Champions League reunion with Barcelona next on the agenda.
West Brom appeared to have averted the prospect of a rout by taking the game to City during the second period before Germany midfielder Gundogan struck twice inside the final 11 minutes.
Tony Pulis - who agreed an extended contract at The Hawthorns this week - and his side lie 14th in the table on 10 points and can look forward to more straightforward assignments than the one they were subjected to by an XI boasting most of Guardiola's big guns after a scratch side lost 1-0 at Manchester United in the EFL Cup.
In-form Albion winger Nacer Chadli steered an early strike over, but it was a predictable tale of massed defensive ranks for the hosts during the opening stages.
Ben Foster got across to deny City's Raheem Sterling and gathered at the second attempt with Nolito lurking, before the Spain forward unnecessarily pushed his head into Craig Dawson having been hauled down by the Albion defender. Both men were booked for their troubles.
An outstretched Foster denied Sterling on the volley once more in the 18th minute and John Stones hooked wastefully into the side-netting from a Nolito centre when the resulting corner was not fully cleared.
The opener came a minute later, with Ilkay Gundogan darting into rare space in front of the West Brom back four and threading a measured pass for Aguero to drive clinically into the far corner.
There was little respite for Foster, who kept out a Fernandinho piledriver and was grateful to Gareth McAuley for denying Nolito on the line.
The Albion goalkeeper was beating the floor in frustration in the 28th minute, though, after Aguero pounced on a loose ball on the edge of the area and picked out the top-right corner with a thunderous strike.
Nolito's eventful outing continued early in the second period when he inadvertently deflected goalbound shots from team-mates David Silva and Gundogan behind.
Belatedly, Pulis looked to seize some initiative by sending on Jonathan Leko and James Morrison, and the previously isolated Salomon Rondon headed Chris Brunt's raking ball over when City keeper Claudio Bravo dashed unwisely to the edge of his area.
Guardiola responded to a spell of pressure by introducing Kevin De Bruyne for Nolito and Aguero almost turned in the Belgium international's cross, before Rondon got his feet in a tangle and was unable to convert James McClean's ball across goal in the 72nd minute.
The impressive Leko set up McAuley to hit the foot of the post but, by that time, Gundogan had beaten the offside trap to slot home Aguero's deft pass and seal the points.
There was further punishment to come for Albion, with Gundogan sweeping in De Bruyne's cross in the final minute - ending the most prolonged slump of Guardiola's illustrious career in emphatic fashion.
Key Opta Stats:
- West Brom have lost their last 10 Premier League games against Manchester City, conceding 28 goals in the process.
- Tony Pulis has now been defeated 11 times by City in the Premier League, the joint-most by a single team (along with Manchester United).
- Sergio Aguero has scored seven times in nine league games against West Brom.
- Aguero has also scored six goals in his last four Premier League away games.
- City have kept a clean sheet in eight of their last 13 league meetings with West Brom and conceded just one goal in the last four meetings.