Sergio Aguero’s 10th Premier League hat-trick helped Manchester City close the gap on leaders Liverpool with an entertaining 3-1 victory over Arsenal.
Aguero struck inside 46 seconds to get the champions off to a dream start before Laurent Koscielny restored parity in the 10th minute.
The 30-year-old restored the hosts’ lead on the stroke of half time and then sealed his hat-trick, albeit controversially, to send City within two points of Liverpool.
Pep Guardiola’s side came into the match off the back of a shock 2-1 defeat at Newcastle which left them five points adrift of their title rivals.
The Catalan tactician went for broke with an altered 3-4-3 formation and it paid dividends right from the first whistle.
Alex Iwobi was robbed of possession on the edge of his own area by Aymeric Laporte and the defender whipped in a perfect delivery to Aguero, who guided his header past Bernd Leno.
City looked rampant and thought they had taken a two-goal lead inside five minutes when Laporte headed home Kevin De Bruyne’s free-kick, but the flag went up against the Frenchman.
And the Gunners took full advantage of the let-off. Lucas Torreira whipped in a corner to the front post which Nacho Monreal flicked it on to the far post and there was Koscielny to head home from close range.
Arsenal began to frustrate the home side, defending deep in a compact shape, but their resistance was broken with a world-class sequence of play on 43 minutes.
Raheem Sterling cut in from the left and exchanged a one-two with Ilkay Gundogan, and the German’s return was pinpoint over the top of the Arsenal defence.
On the first time volley, Sterling found Aguero free at the far post and the Argentine tucked away to complete a sublime team move.
City began the second half in the ascendency and Leno had to be on hand twice to deny De Bruyne. But when Sterling broke down the left again, there was only one outcome.
The England winger squared it across the box to Aguero, who appeared to handle the ball over the line to seal his hat-trick. Arsenal protested, but the goal stood.
Leno was forced into action again late on to keep the score respectable, with both David Silva and substitute Gabriel Jesus testing the 26-year-old.
But the two-goal margin was a fair reflection of City’s grit in the second half as they continued their title charge with another crucial victory.
source: Evening Standard