LONDON â€” Manchester City didn’t just appoint Pep Guardiola to win trophies. City hired him to do it with the sort of style his iconic Barcelona and magnificent Bayern Munich sides did.
The Spaniard’s first season in England has been far from smooth sailing with a Champions League qualification spot not yet secure, but his side’s second goal during a 3-1 victory over Hull on Saturday showed why many remain so excited by his presence in the English Premier League.
All 11 City players, including recalled goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, touched the ball in the 20-pass move which ended with the familiar sight of Sergio Aguero putting the ball in the net.
“The second goal is the big example of what we would like to be,” Guardiola said. “I don’t like the defenders to just defend and the strikers just to score goals. I like everybody involved in the way we want to play.”
However, Guardiola’s EPL title hopes were effectively ended on Wednesday by the loss to leader Chelsea, and Antonio Conte’s side matched City on Saturday by beating Bournemouth 3-1.
Two victories in four days for Chelsea have quickly erased last weekend’s shock defeat against Crystal Palace from the memory, and ensured that the gap to second-placed Tottenham remains at seven points.
Tottenham applied pressure to Chelsea with a resounding 4-0 victory in the day’s early fixture, but the Blues displayed resilience once more to see off Bournemouth.
BOURNEMOUTH 1, CHELSEA 3
Moments of individual brilliance from Eden Hazard and Marcos Alonso ensured Chelsea kept its charge toward the title on track.
A fortuitous own goal put Chelsea in front before Hazard rounded Artur Boruc to double the lead after just 20 minutes.
Despite Josh King pulling a goal back before the break, the Blues didn’t blink.
Alonso found the top corner with a perfect free kick to seal victory as the effectiveness of Conte’s wing backs in his 3-4-3 formation was displayed once more. The returning Victor Moses played a crucial role in the opening goal.
TOTTENHAM 4, WATFORD 0
Son Heung-min’s double helped Tottenham ruthlessly dispatch another challenger at White Hart Lane to stretch its home winning run to 11 EPL games.
Like so many others this season, Watford was powerless to resist the relentless movement of Mauricio Pochettino’s side as Son was joined on the scoresheet by Dele Alli and Eric Dier.
Spurs has combined its faultless home form with away victories in recent weeks and has stretched its advantage over fifth-placed rival Arsenal to 14 points.
The icing on the cake for Tottenham was Harry Kane’s earlier-than-expected return from an ankle injury after almost a month sidelined. Spurs’ leading scorer came off the bench for the final 30 minutes, and hit the crossbar.
MANCHESTER CITY 3, HULL 1
City ended a run of four EPL games without victory in style at Etihad Stadium.
Ahmed Elmohamady will be relived Aguero’s stunning second overshadowed his clumsy own goal, which freed Guardiola’s side to play the way he wants them to. Fabian Delph added the third.
STOKE 1, LIVERPOOL 2
Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho answered Juergen Klopp’s halftime SOS call to inspire Liverpool to a crucial comeback victory.
The Brazilian duo was left on the bench as Liverpool contested its third EPL game in six days, but was thrown on at the break after Jonathan Walters gave Stoke the lead.
Coutinho levelled with a neat finish, and Firmino volleyed home a spectacular winner from the edge of the box to ensure Liverpool held onto third place.
West Ham took a big step toward league survival after defeating Swansea 1-0 to end a run of five straight losses. Cheikhou Kouyate’s long-range strike was enough to ensure Swansea remained in the bottom three, but the visiting Welsh side was given a reprieve as its other relegation rivals also struggled.
While Hull lost at Manchester City, Middlesbrough could manage only a goalless draw at home to Burnley.
Southampton won at West Brom 1-0 thanks to Jordy Clasie’s first-half goal.
Sam Johnston is at www.twitter.com/samjohnstontwit
Sam Johnston, The Associated Press