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Manchester City moved up to third place in the Premier League table as a Sergio Aguero hat-trick secured a 3-0 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
With Arsenal not playing until Sunday, Manuel Pellegrini’s side knew a victory over the deposed champions would see them leapfrog the Gunners and move four points clear of fifth-placed Manchester United.
City didn’t disappoint as, with Aguero, Samir Nasri and Kevin de Bruyne in razor sharp form, they carved their opponents open on the break at will.
Two goals from Aguero in a 20-minute period either side of the break settled the game in City’s favour as a flat Chelsea demonstrated once again to incoming boss Antonio Conte that he faces a huge task if they are to challenge for honours next season.
Aguero sealed his hat-trick 11 minutes from time when he stroked home a spot-kick after Thibaut Courtois was dismissed for taking down Fernandinho.
That sealed a highly satisfactory evening’s work for City who with de Bruyne in flying form since returning from injury and Aguero at his brilliant best, look a formidable outfit who will have designs on progressing into the Champions League final and securing their place in next year’s competition.
The game started at a frantic pace and City showed how dangerous they would be on the break, de Bruyne cutting the ball back for Aguero who was so close to side-footing his first-time effort into the net.
Minutes later at the other end a Joe Hart brainwave saw him stranded with Diego Costa feeding Pedro but his attempt was cleared off the line by Nicolas Otamendi.
City had a great opportunity to draw first blood when Nasri was sent clear but his finish was timid and the advancing Courtois saved comfortably with his legs.
On 32 minutes they had the lead, de Bruyne feeding Aguero on the edge of the box and the little Argentinian’s shot took a slight deflection on its way past Courtois into the back of the net.
Chelsea controlled possession in the early stages of the second half but on 53 minutes City showed again how lethal they can be on the counter. De Bruyne side-stepped a defender in his own half, before surging forward and feeding Nasri, who then found Aguero; the in-form forward finished coolly over Courtois.
The hosts never looked capable of getting back into the contest and City capped the most comfortable of victories when Aguero completed his hat-trick late on, sending a message out to Real Madrid, Arsenal and neighbours Utd that they are aiming to end the season on the highest of highs.