Kevin De Bruyne scored four goals as Manchester City restored a three-point lead at the Premier League summit with a 5-1 win at Wolves.
The playmaker rattled in a left-footed hat-trick inside the opening 24 minutes and added another on the hour as City demonstrated the firepower they have even before Erling Haaland arrives next season.
City’s victory was also an emphatic response to title rivals Liverpool’s success over Aston Villa the previous night and tightened their grip on the title race with just two games to play.
The De Bruyne show was briefly interrupted by a Leander Dendoncker strike early on but a late Raheem Sterling tap-in ensured they would score five for a second successive game.
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With the extra insurance of a goal difference now plus seven better than their Merseyside rivals, City are closing in on their fourth title in five seasons.
The only downside was the loss of Aymeric Laporte in the second half, joining fellow defenders John Stones, Ruben Dias and Kyle Walker on the sidelines.
Having already deployed Fernandinho as a makeshift centre-back and with Nathan Ake having not been fit enough to start, manager Pep Guardiola will anxiously await updates on the Spain international’s condition.
Yet the story of Wednesday evening was all about De Bruyne, although the Belgian offered a nod to the headlines of the day by celebrating one of his goals in the manner of incoming signing Haaland.
— Liam Gallagher (@liamgallagher) May 11, 2022
Wolves, whose manager Bruno Lage was missing for a second successive game after testing positive for Covid-19, were overrun.
De Bruyne almost set up a goal within the opening moments but Phil Foden was inches away from connecting with his low ball.
His opening goal came after seven minutes as Wolves goalkeeper Jose Sa invited more pressure with a poor clearance.
Bernardo Silva brought the ball under control and slipped De Bruyne in on goal with a fine through-ball. De Bruyne made no mistake as he drilled a low shot past Sa.
Yet for all their brilliance in attack, City did look vulnerable in the absence of Stones and Dias.
Their weaknesses were exposed just four minutes later by a swift Wolves counter-attack.
Raul Jimenez chested down a clearance before pushing forward and releasing Pedro Neto, who raced into the area and squared for Dendoncker to tuck home.
It was a goal that electrified the home crowd – and will have been cheered by Liverpool fans elsewhere – but the celebrations were shortlived.
City were back in front just four minutes later. This time De Bruyne was looking to play in Sterling but Sa came out to intercept. The ball rolled back to De Bruyne and he rifled back past the keeper with the aid of a deflection.
He went on to add an extra stamp of class by completing his hat-trick soon after.
His third was all his own work as he cut in from the right following a City throw-in and curled a superb left-foot shot around Sa from the edge of the area.
To their credit Wolves attempted to fight back and Chiquinho felt he should have had a penalty after tangling with Oleksandr Zinchenko in the area but referee Martin Atkinson gave only a corner.
There were further penalty shouts at either end. First Sterling – having been played in by De Bruyne – went down and then Wolves appealed for handball against Fernandinho from their subsequent quick counter.
Neither were given and Sterling was also denied by an offside flag after putting the ball in the net early in the second half.
De Bruyne grabbed his fourth on the hour after leading another break and finding Foden in the area. Foden looked inside for Sterling but his pass took a ricochet and fell kindly for De Bruyne to score again.
De Bruyne was doing wonders for City’s goal difference but Laporte’s injury, after a collision with Jimenez, did temper their joy slightly.
Yet City continued to press and hit the post through Foden before Sterling tapped in their fifth late on.