London (AFP) – Manchester City restored their 12-point lead at the top of the Premier League as Raheem Sterling’s hat-trick put Norwich to the sword 4-0, while Manchester United’s chances of just making the top four stumbled again in a 1-1 draw against Southampton on Saturday.
City boss Pep Guardiola took the chance to heavily rotate his side ahead of the return of the Champions League in midweek with Kevin De Bruyne among those rested.
Conquering Europe is the priority for Guardiola, but the English champions are well on course for a fourth Premier League title in the past five years.
Norwich stunned City with a 3-2 win at Carrow Road when they were last in the top-flight, but their resistence lasted just 30 minutes when Sterling curled brilliantly into the far corner.
Phil Foden’s shot sneaked just over the line before Grant Hanley hacked clear three minutes into the second half before Sterling made it 3-0 by heading in Ruben Dias’ inviting knock-down.
Sterling was given a glorious chance to seal his hat-trick when Hanley was harshly adjudged to have brought down Liam Delap in the final minute.
The England international’s penalty was saved by Angus Gunn, but the rebound broke kindly for Sterling to complete a perfect hat-trick of a right foot, left foot and headed finish.
Liverpool have two games in hand to cut the gap at the top, starting with a trip to Burnley on Sunday, but a 15-game unbeaten league run has propelled City into a commanding position.
– United blow another lead –
At the start of the season hopes were high on the other side of Manchester for a title challenge, but United are now 23 points off the top and in increasing danger of failing to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
The Red Devils took the lead through Jadon Sancho’s first Premier League goal at Old Trafford.
But, for the third consecutive game, United surrendered a lead to draw 1-1 when Che Adams slotted in off the inside of the post two minutes into the second half.
United are level on points with fourth placed West Ham, but Arsenal are just a point behind with two games in hand, while Tottenham have played three fewer games and are four points back.
“It was the third game where we were 1-0 up and I don’t think anyone out there should believe that the players don’t care,” United boss Ralf Rangnick said.
“The question is with the group of players we have, how do we get more compact, more aggressive and even more nasty, it’s about defending a lead.”
At the bottom of the table, Everton secured just their second league win in 16 games in Frank Lampard’s home debut in charge with a dominant 3-0 win over Leeds.
The Toffees looked transformed from the first whistle and took the lead in the 10th minute when Seamus Coleman powered in a head from close range for his first goal in 80 games stretching back to 2019.
That landmark moment was followed by another rare goalscorer as centre-back Michael Keane headed in from Anthony Gordon’s 23rd minute corner.
After suffering a damaging defeat at relegation rivals Newcastle in his first league game in charge, former Chelsea boss Lampard was able to celebrate three valuable points when Gordon got the final touch on Richarlison’s shot in the 78th minute.
Victory moves Everton five points clear of the relegation zone and within a point of Leeds with a game in hand.
Watford remain rooted in the bottom three after a 2-0 defeat to Brighton in Roy Hodgson’s first home game in charge.
Brighton struck in the 44th minute when Neal Maupay hooked a superb half-volley into the top corner from Tariq Lamptey’s cross.
Watford were booed off at half-time and there were more jeers at the final whistle after Adam Webster sealed the points from close-range after a goal-mouth scramble.
Brentford edged seven points clear of the bottom three by snapping a six-game losing run with a 0-0 draw against Crystal Palace.
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