MANCHESTER City regained their attacking swagger in time for the visit of Barcelona in the Champions League by thrashing Newcastle 5-0 yesterday, and trimming the gap to English Premier League leader Chelsea to five points.
The champions were 3-0 ahead within 21 minutes through goals by Sergio Aguero — from the penalty spot — Samir Nasri, and the impressive Edin Dzeko.
Early in the second half, Spanish playmaker David Silva scored twice in the space of two minutes.
New signing Wilfried Bony came on as a 60th-minute substitute for his debut, five weeks after signing from Swansea for an initial fee of £25 million ($38.5m), and was denied a first goal by goalkeeper Tim Krul’s fine save in the 76th.
It was the ideal warm-up for City ahead of the first-leg match against Barcelona in the last 16 of Europe’s top competition tomorrow night — and completed a successful day for the champions after Chelsea surprisingly drew 1-1 against Burnley to reinvigorate the title race.
City came from behind in the final weeks to win titles in 2012 and last season.
“Maybe five points is still a lot,” Dzeko said. “But if we can continue to play like that we can definitely catch them.”
After a difficult January when City fell away from Chelsea in the league and was eliminated from the FA Cup by second-tier Middlesbrough, Manuel Pellegrini’s side has rediscovered its scoring brio.
Coming after a 4-1 win at Stoke, that’s nine goals in two games for City, who also have star midfielder Yaya Toure and Bony back from the African Cup of Nations.
Newcastle lost 4-0 on their last visit to City in the league, on the opening day of last season.
Newcastle manager John Carver apologised to the club’s visiting fans. “We came up against a top side. I have seen better sides than us come here and get a hiding,” he said.
At Stamford Bridge a 10-man Chelsea were contentiously held to 1-1 by Burnley, allowing City to trim the gap on the leader to five points. Chelsea had led through Branislav Ivanovic’s first-half opener, but Ben Mee headed in for Burnley after key midfielder Nemanja Matic was sent off.
Tim Sherwood made a disappointing start to his managerial career at Aston Villa, the team losing 2-1 at home to Stoke.