Manchester City recovered from their disappointing defeat at Premier League title rivals Arsenal with a ruthless 4-1 victory over a hapless Sunderland, but there were concerns as captain Vincent Kompany limped off on his comeback from injury.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side were beaten 2-1 at Emirates Stadium on Monday in a defeat that left them six points adrift of surprise leaders Leicester City ahead of Saturday’s matches.
However, City turned on the style at the Etihad Stadium with the recalled Raheem Sterling and Wilfried Bony part of an excellent attacking unit alongside Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva.
The only concern for Pellegrini will be the sight of Kompany limping off with a seeming recurrence of the calf injury that sidelined him since early November, less than 10 minutes after coming on as a second-half substitute.
In a clinical first-half showing, Sterling opened the scoring with a header and Yaya Toure quickly doubled the lead in superb fashion from long range.
Bony had noted his disappointment at being dropped in favour of Sergio Aguero for the Arsenal loss, but he responded by heading home his fourth goal in his last six appearances.
De Bruyne deservedly got on the scoresheet with his 10th goal in all competitions this season and, after Fabio Borini scored a consolation for Sunderland, Bony blazed a penalty over the crossbar.
It mattered little and City are now just three points adrift of Leicester, while Sunderland remain mired in relegation trouble in 19th.
Sunderland made six changes from the side that lost 3-1 at Chelsea, but their defensive frailties were exposed from the off and Sterling was celebrating in the 12th minute.
De Bruyne collected Aleksandar Kolarov’s overhit cross and the Belgian’s delivery was headed in at the back post by the former Liverpool winger.
Four minutes later the home fans were on their feet again as Toure’s quick feet bamboozled Jordi Gomez and the midfielder brilliantly placed his left-foot shot into the bottom-right corner from 25 yards.
Danny Graham missed with a close-range header that offered a warning to City, but the unrelenting hosts went 3-0 ahead in the 22nd minute when Bony expertly headed home De Bruyne’s wickedly whipped free-kick.
City’s attack continued to terrorise Sunderland and Sterling had the ball in the net again before half-time but the whistle had gone for offside.
The hosts remained in the ascendancy after the break and Vito Mannone smartly parried Silva’s effort after the Spaniard combined brilliantly with De Bruyne.
But it was a temporary reprieve as De Bruyne’s attempted pass into Bony was deflected back into his path by a Sunderland foot and he coolly slotted under Mannone.
There was a blot on City’s card when Lee Cattermole’s attempted shot was turned goalwards by Borini, who tapped in the rebound after Joe Hart saved his initial effort.
Bony wasted the chance to stretch City’s lead when he fired wildly over from the penalty spot after Silva was clipped by Sebastian Coates.
And there was more worry for City when Kompany, who had earlier replaced Nicolas Otamendi, limped off to be replaced by Martin Demichelis.