City swagger into top four
Manchester City celebrate (AFP)
Manchester - Manchester City have returned to winning ways in the Premier League with a resounding bang on Saturday by demolishing strugglers Norwich City 7-0 at the Etihad Stadium.
WRAP: English Premiership
City fell 2-1 at Chelsea last weekend, but they blew off the cobwebs with an unrelenting onslaught that catapulted the 2012 champions into the top four ahead of Tuesday's visit of CSKA Moscow in the Champions League.
An unfortunate own goal by Bradley Johnson got the ball rolling in the 16th minute, with further goals from David Silva, Matija Nastasic and Alvaro Negredo putting City 4-0 up by the 36th minute.
Yaya Toure made it five with a sumptuous free-kick on the hour, before late goals from Sergio Aguero and substitute Edin Dzeko completed Norwich's misery.
Victory took City to within three points of leaders Arsenal, ahead of the London club's home game with Liverpool later on Saturday, while Norwich remain in the bottom three after a fourth successive game without victory.
As expected, Manuel Pellegrini dropped goalkeeper Joe Hart to the bench following his costly last-minute blunder at Chelsea, with Romanian understudy Costel Pantilimon retaining his place from the team that won 2-0 at Newcastle United in the League Cup on Wednesday.
Norwich manager Chris Hughton, meanwhile, made two changes to the side held 0-0 by Cardiff City last weekend, with Steven Whittaker and Johnson drafted in for injured duo Alexander Tettey and Robert Snodgrass.
The pre-match attention had all focused on the identity of the man who would stand between the sticks for City, but it was Norwich goalkeeper John Ruddy who found himself in the firing line once the game got under way.
Samir Nasri spurned a good opportunity to put City ahead in the 15th minute when he sliced a left-foot shot against the post following a one-two with Silva, but the home fans did not have to wait long for a goal.
Moments later the ball arrived at Aguero's feet after Silva had seen an effort blocked and although Michael Turner got in the way of the Argentine's shot, the ball ricocheted off Johnson and looped into the net.
Silva made it 2-0 four minutes later, drilling a shot beneath Ruddy with his left foot from Aguero's lay-off after a raking ball over the top from Toure.
Fortune deserted Norwich again five minutes after that, when Nastasic added a third with a header that glanced in off visiting defender Russell Martin following a right-wing corner.
Aguero turned provider again nine minutes before half-time, crossing for Negredo to tap home after being found close to the byline by Toure.
Pantilimon was finally tested in the 38th minute when he had to save from Anthony Pilkington, but City were quickly back on the attack, with Toure shooting straight at Ruddy after Leroy Fer conceded possession.
Johan Elmander squandered a chance to reduce the arrears early in the second half when he side-footed wide from Johnson's cross.
Ruddy then displayed sharp reflexes to prevent Nasri getting on the score-sheet, but he stood little chance on the hour when Toure beat him from 20 yards with his third free-kick of the season.
Aguero got the goal his industry merited in the 71st minute, smashing home from 10 yards after Silva's cross was only partially cleared by Sebastien Bassong.
Ruddy saved well from Jesus Navas, but City kept coming and Dzeko added a seventh with four minutes remaining from Navas's pass.