Monday 18 February 2019

Aguero fires City to another level in Chelsea humiliation

Manchester City 6 Chelsea 0

Raheem Sterling celebrates after scoring the first goal. Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Raheem Sterling celebrates after scoring the first goal. Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Jason Burt

This was not so much a victory as an evisceration. This was not so much a defeat as a demolition. This was not so much three points as one very big point being made by the champions.

If Liverpool, or Tottenham Hotspur, are to finish ahead of Manchester City it will be an exceptional achievement.

Sergio Aguero hammers home the second. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Sergio Aguero hammers home the second. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire

City returned to the top of the Premier League, with another Sergio Agüero hat-trick, which draws him level on 11 with Alan Shearer's all-time record, and did so by destroying Chelsea. They humiliated them and their head coach Maurizio Sarri - and that is dangerous territory for a club with Chelsea's ambition and expectations.

It has been three games, nine points and 11 goals in a week for City. They brushed aside Arsenal and Everton but this was next level.

This was something special; the best, Pep Guardiola said, since he has been at the club which is some statement given the heights they have scaled.

Questions

It was also a result that kept Chelsea out of the top four, and actually pushed them down to sixth, for the first time this season but it also raises serious questions over where they are heading and whether Sarri will continue after this campaign.

Aguero scores the third. Photo: Reuters/Carl Recine
Aguero scores the third. Photo: Reuters/Carl Recine

It was that brutal. Sarri-ball was deconstructed in 25 devastating minutes. Whatever the excuses, the mitigation, the understandable arguments over giving Sarri time - and the players - to execute his precise brand of football, big teams do not get taken apart like this.

They just do not; no matter how good City were and they were very, very good. It was beautiful.

Guardiola's tutoring of City also took time and maybe Chelsea will look to that but, if they do, it will be the first time in the history of Roman Abramovich's ownership.

Sarri has to get them back in the top four but looked bereft. The hang-dog Italian chewed the cigarette butts on the touchline, as usual, but looked like he was about to be spat out and walked straight past Guardiola at the final whistle, lost in his thoughts, missing the handshake of his friend. It was that traumatic.

Ilkay Gundogan’s shot flies into the net for the fourth goal. Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Ilkay Gundogan’s shot flies into the net for the fourth goal. Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

This was Chelsea's biggest defeat in the Abramovich era, and their biggest since 1991, and in their past two away league games they have conceded a frightening 10 goals without reply.

Agüero now has 11 league goals in 2019 - which is more than half the teams in the Premier League have registered. And he could have had more - missing a 'sitter' and also striking the goal-frame. It was his second successive hat-trick in home games and he departed to a standing ovation.

The bigger picture in terms of the title race is City emphatically stating their case and, importantly, enhancing their goal difference by doing so.

Liverpool have a game in hand - away next Sunday against Manchester United, whose caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was here - and can go three points clear again but City now have a 10-goal advantage.

Aguero scores the fifth from the penalty spot. Photo: Reuters/Phil Noble
Aguero scores the fifth from the penalty spot. Photo: Reuters/Phil Noble

Stomach

Four goals arrived in the first half. Or, rather, the first half of a first half in which it felt like only Eden Hazard and Gonzalo Higuaín had the stomach for the fight.

The first goal summed that up. Jorginho, badly struggling at the base of the midfield, needlessly fouled Kevin De Bruyne who took a quick free-kick.

Neither Hazard nor, even more so, Marcos Alonso were alert to the danger and Bernardo Silva ran in from the touchline to cross the ball low. David Luiz deflected it out but only as far as the onrushing Raheem Sterling.

There was then an astonishing miss by Agüero who somehow side-footed wide from just two yards out, with the goal beckoning, after a wonderful run and low cross by Bernardo but he quickly made amends.

Agüero took possession from Oleksandr Zinchencko, weighed up the shot and sent a superb curling 25-yard effort that Kepa Arrizabalaga got a hand before it tore past. Chelsea were reeling and they unravelled when Zinchenko scooped the ball into the penalty area with Luiz heading it out.

Kepa Arrizabalaga is beaten again as Sterling makes it six. Photo: Reuters/Phil Noble
Kepa Arrizabalaga is beaten again as Sterling makes it six. Photo: Reuters/Phil Noble

That should have been the end of it but, for some reason, Ross Barkley headed it back towards his own goal, playing Agüero onside and, predator that he is, the striker stole in to steer a low shot past Arrizabalaga. It was his 159th league goal - a City record.

They struck again and once more Chelsea were at fault with no pressure as Agüero sent the ball out wide to Sterling who returned it back to the striker with both Luiz and Rudiger inexplicably standing off before Rudiger managed to intercept. But the ball only ran out to Ilkay Gundogan who struck a low shot into the corner.

Chelsea created two first-half chances, their only chances, with Ederson denying Pedro and Higuaín, but the game was up and it was only a question of how many for City.

It would be two more - after Agüero first went close with a header against the crossbar before he claimed his hat-trick, his 15th for City. Cesar Azpilicueta was undone by Sterling, bringing down the winger allowing Agüero to roll the penalty low into the corner.

And, to think, City achieved all this without David Silva who then came on and delivered the pass of the match as he released Zinchenko who cut the ball back. It fell to Sterling who finished unerringly. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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