Manuel Pellegrini’s side brushed West Brom aside at the Etihad Stadium last night as their swagger made a timely return to cut the gap between City, who have a game in hand, and the Merseyside club to six points.
City were irresistible in periods and picked holes in West Brom’s ailing backline seemingly at will, although their work ethic appeared half-hearted and even downright lazy in places.
Only when it was really necessary did they move up through the gears against Pepe Mel’s relegation strugglers.
Certainly this victory, and the emphatic manner of it, owed more to the shear quality that Pellegrini has at his disposal in his squad rather than a dogged determination to wrestle the initiative from Anfield.
It is clear though that even without the workrate, though, City will remain a threat to Liverpool’s hopes of ending their 24-year wait for the title. If Pellegrini can coax a bit more out of his players, they will definitely push Brendan Rodgers’ side all the way.
Goals from Pablo Zabaleta, Sergio Aguero and Martin Demichelis ensured City banked the points — the first time three different Argentine players scored in a Premier League match.
However a major concern for the remainder of the season will be a second-half injury to influential playmaker David Silva.
The Spain international was taken off on a stretcher clutching his knee after an awkward tangle with Morgan Amalfitano in the 70th minute.
Despite a 2-2 draw at home to Sunderland being fresh in the memory, City were buoyant and bullish in the early stages as they looked to assert their authority on the contest.
Unsurprisingly, a West Brom defence which has been leaking goals for fun in recent weeks was quickly carved open by City’s slick interplay.
However, the home side’s opener came from an unlikely source as right-back Zabaleta registered his goal of the campaign.
A weak header from West Brom defender Liam Ridgewell fell to Aguero who struck a powerful first-time volley which was parried by Ben Foster, but Zabaleta anticipated the rebound to head into the empty net.
Aguero, looking rejuvenated after recent injury problems, lifted a shot over the crossbar moments later when he got on the end of a cross from Samir Nasri, however it was not long until he got his name on the scoresheet.
West Brom’s defence backed off and were duly punished by Aguero as he arrowed a low shot into the corner of the net from just outside the penalty area.
“David Moyes is a football genius” sang the City fans as they mocked the turmoil unfolding at bitter rivals Manchester United, only to then watch West Brom pull a goal back on the counter attack after mix-up at a free-kick involving Fernandinho and Silva.
Graham Dorrans received the ball on the edge of the box from Matej Vydra and expertly lifted it over Gael Clichy with his right boot before he spectacularly hammered past goalkeeper Joe Hart with his left.
City went up through the gears and always looked more likely to add a third before half-time with the triumvirate of Silva, Nasri and Aguero seemingly toying with West Brom at times.
However, their third came in a much more direct fashion when Nasri’s corner fizzed through the six-yard box via Vincent Kompany’s flick and into the path of Demichelis, who gave Jonas Olsson the slip to steer the ball home at the back post.
With the work done from City’s perspective the second half was somewhat more subdued, as Pellegrini’s side looked to hold on to what they had rather than attempt to bolster their goal difference.
West Brom seemed determined to make a fist of it and Amalfitano forced Hart to scurry across goal to keep out a fierce drive moments after Silva had been taken off. Sensing a threat City increased their tempo and Stevan Jovetic, who had replaced Aguero shortly after the hour mark, flashed a shot which Foster did well to anticipate.
West Brom threw on Saido Berahino in an attempt to inject some energy in their play and the promising youngster gave City fans a scare when he got a toe on curling effort from outside the area which Hart almost diverted into the net. James Milner had a chance to put the icing on the cake for City in the dying moments but Foster did well to block at his near post.
MANCHESTER CITY (4-2-3-1): Hart 6; Zabaleta 7, Kompany 6, Demichelis 7, Clichy 5; Garcia 6, Fernandinho 6; Silva 7 (Milner 70; 6), Aguero 8 (Jovetic 64; 6), Nasri 7; Dzeko 5 (Kolarov 89; 6).
WEST BROM (4-2-3-1): Foster 6; Jones 5, Dawson 6, Olsson 5, Ridgewell 5; Mulumbu 7 (Morrison 81; 6), Brunt 6; Amalfitano 5, Sessegnon 7 (Berahino 76; 7), Dorrans 8; Vydra 5 (Anichebe 60; 5).
Referee: Phil Dowd.