MANCHESTER, England (AP) ― Manchester City stayed alive in the English Premier League title race by beating West Bromwich Albion 3-1 thanks to first-half goals by three Argentines on Monday.
Pablo Zabaleta and Sergio Aguero struck in the opening 10 minutes at Etihad Stadium to set third-place City on its way to a victory that trimmed the gap to league leader Liverpool to six points, with a game still in hand.
Graham Dorrans’ spectacular 16th-minute volley halved West Brom’s deficit but Martin Demichelis bundled in a close-range finish in the 33rd to help secure a routine win for City that was marred by a second-half injury to its playmaker David Silva.
The Spain international was carried off on a stretcher after receiving a knock to his right ankle, which has been causing him pain for the last few weeks.
City, which moved a point behind Chelsea, likely has to win its final four matches if the team has any chance of reeling in Liverpool.
“We always talk with the players that if Liverpool win their (last) three matches and win 14 in a row, they will be champions,” City manager Manuel Pellegrini said. “Our duty is to try to win the games and in that way Liverpool can feel pressure.”
Pellegrini’s side rediscovered the creativity and bite to its forward play that was lacking in last week’s 2-2 draw with Sunderland that severely dented its hopes of catching Liverpool. Much of that can be put down to the return of Silva, who prompted many of City’s attacks in the opening blitz that proved too much for West Brom, before being taken off in the 69th with his right leg in a brace following an innocuous challenge by Morgan Amalfitano.
“His injury started with a kick some weeks ago and every week he plays in the last game with pain,” Pellegrini said of Silva.
With City facing upcoming trips to Crystal Palace and Everton, a long injury absence for Silva would be a huge blow to the team’s title aspirations.
By the time he departed, the damage had been done by City’s three Argentines.
Zabaleta stooped to head home a rebound inside three minutes after Aguero’s shot was palmed out by West Brom goalkeeper Ben Foster, and Aguero buried a low shot into the corner from 25 meters in the 10th for his first goal since Jan. 29. Like against Sunderland, the striker lasted only around an hour as he looks to return to full fitness after a hamstring injury.
Dorrans finished off a fast counterattack, which had its origins in a botched free kick by City close to West Brom’s area, by twisting and turning Gael Clichy and letting fly with a fierce volley that crashed into the net off the post.
However, Demichelis restored the two-goal lead after receiving the end of Vincent Kompany’s flick-on from Samir Nasri’s corner and West Brom rarely threatened in the second half.
“The first half I think we played very well, we scored three goals and we had clear chances,” Pellegrini said. “It was the team we see the whole season at the Etihad.”
City climbed four points clear of fourth-place Arsenal but will be looking up in the standings, not below, as it goes in search of a second title in three years.
West Brom stayed 16th, three points above the relegation zone with four games remaining.