Manchester City strengthened their Premier League top-four aspirations with a 5-0 thrashing of a woeful Crystal Palace side at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
City never looked back after David Silva’s 50th goal for the club in the second minute although it was not until the second half that the floodgates opened with Vincent Kompany, Kevin de Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Nicolas Otamendi all on target.
Victory moved City into third place with 69 points, above Liverpool on goal difference. Fifth-placed Manchester United, who play sixth-placed Arsenal on Sunday, have 65.
It was the kind of vibrant play City produced at the start of the season when they topped the table and should Arsenal defeat Manchester United on Sunday they will be hot favourites to seal another season of Champions League football.
“Our performance was high level. I’m pleased for our people we can finally enjoy a lot of goals here,” manager Pep Guardiola, who has bemoaned his side’s finishing of late, said.
Palace’s third consecutive defeat means they are still anxiously looking over their shoulders at the teams below them although they remain six points above third-bottom Swansea City who are in action on Sunday at home to Everton.
Two consecutive draws had undermined City’s hopes of finishing in the top four but they hit top gear from the first whistle and did not have to wait long to go ahead.
Silva’s chipped pass sought out the clever run of Sterling and when his lob was headed weakly away by Martin Kelly the lurking Silva drove a volley past Wayne Hennessey.
Palace were in danger of being overrun and the fleet-footed Leroy Sane forced Hennessey into two good saves.
The visitors could have equalised when Andros Townsend’s fine cross was net powerfully by Christian Benteke but Willy Caballero made reflex save to keep out the Belgian’s header.
City’s second goal arrived two minutes after the break from an unlikely source – Kompany crashing home an unstoppable shot for his first home goal since August 2015.
Wales keeper Hennessey was at fault as he let Kevin de Bruyne’s weak shot creep inside the post to make it 3-0 on the hour as City forged clear.
Sterling’s sweetly-struck left-foot shot made it 4-0 before defender Otamendi got on the scoresheet with a diving header from De Bruyne’s chipped free kick – only his second City goal.
Palace manager Sam Allardyce was critical of his team’s defending.
“All five goals were avoidable. We didn’t make them produce their brilliant talent, we gifted them five goals. They punished us heavily,” he said.