Manchester City strengthened their grip on a top-four finish with a convincing win over Crystal Palace that moves them above Liverpool and into third place on goal difference.
David Silva opened the scoring inside two minutes with City’s quickest goal of the season, but it took a little longer before the scoreline reflected the home side’s dominance.
City could not extend their lead before the break, despite a lacklustre start from a Palace side who are not yet assured of Premier League safety.
The Eagles almost managed an unlikely equaliser with their first effort at goal when Christian Benteke’s header brought a fine reaction save from Willy Caballero.
But Pep Guardiola’s side made sure of the points after the break, starting when captain Vincent Kompany turned home Kevin de Bruyne’s cross with a fine first-time finish into the top corner.
De Bruyne, who also grazed the bar with a free-kick, made it 3-0 with a low shot from the edge of the area that Wayne Hennessey got a hand to, but could not keep out.
Raheem Sterling added a fourth, latching on to substitute Pablo Zabaleta’s clever header and smashing his shot into the bottom corner, before Nicolas Otamendi headed home De Bruyne’s free-kick to complete the rout.
Goals add shine to City’s victory
Guardiola said before kick-off that his side’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League rested on a run of three home games that started with the visit of the Eagles, and the manner of this victory represents the perfect start.
It was City’s biggest home win since they thrashed Bournemouth 4-0 in September, back when Guardiola had a 100% winning record with City and his team were top of the table.
Those days are long gone – their title hopes were officially ended by last week’s draw at Middlesbrough – but this win, which equalled their biggest of the season in all competitions, was a timely return to goalscoring form.
City are only third on goal difference but they now have a four-goal advantage on Liverpool. And their position in the top four could be strengthened further when the teams in fifth and sixth, Manchester United and Arsenal, meet at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.
Palace, meanwhile, will anxiously await the outcome of Hull and Swansea’s home games later on Saturday.
The Eagles have a six-point cushion above the relegation zone, and a vastly superior goal difference to both of those teams even after this heavy defeat, but they may require another win to make sure of their survival.