17 May City getting closer
Manchester City need just a point from their final game of the season to earn another tilt at the Champions League after sweeping West Brom aside.
On a night of high emotion as long-serving full-back Pablo Zabaleta said farewell to the Etihad Stadium, City eased past the Baggies 3-1 with goals from Gabriel Jesus, Kevin De Bruyne and Yaya Toure.
The victory lifted them above Liverpool to third in the Premier League with just Sunday’s trip to Watford to come. Any positive result at Vicarage Road will guarantee a position in the top four.
“It was a good night and it’s in our hands to finish third,” said manager Pep Guardiola. “We go to London to win the game.
“I would not say it’s done, fourth, but Arsenal have to win five or 6-0 to qualify fourth, but we are there. We will travel and try to put in a good performance and win.”
In such form and with a healthy goal difference in their favour, City should be confident of completing the job.
West Brom, who have won just one of their last 11 matches, were poor as City eased to the three points.
Jesus, with his sixth goal in seven league starts, and De Bruyne struck within two minutes of each other midway through the first half and Toure added the third just before the hour.
Sergio Aguero was instrumental in all three goals.
“He didn’t score but he helped us to make assists,” said Guardiola. “He played really good. It was an amazing performance.”
The convincing nature of City’s performance gave City the latitude to bid Zabaleta a fitting goodbye.
The Argentinian, who announced at the weekend he is leaving the club at the end of the season after nine years’ service, arrived to a hero’s reception as a second-half substitute.
After the game he was honoured in an on-pitch presentation when, among other tributes, he was given a lifetime City season ticket.
The 32-year-old was touched and could not hold back the tears as he addressed the crowd.
He said: “In life at times you have to make tough decisions and I always think the best for myself, for the family and for the club especially. I feel it’s the right time for me to go on but, believe me, I love this club so much.
“Thank you to the fans, to everyone… because they made me a better player and a better person and it was a big pleasure to play for the shirt.”
The only moment of note from a lacklustre West Brom came with Hal Robson-Kanu’s late consolation.
Manager Tony Pulis said: “City deserved to win the game – they were better than us.”