Manchester City maintained their grip on top spot in the Premier League with Raheem Sterling scoring his first professional hat-trick in a 5-1 victory over AFC Bournemouth at the Etihad Stadium.
Even without the injured Sergio Aguero – who scored five goals in 22 minutes last time out against Newcastle United – City showed no sign of bluntness in attack, with England forward Sterling starring with his first-half treble and Wilfried Bony scoring twice.
Bony, who replaced Aguero up front, set up Sterling for the opening goal in before capitalising on a mistake from Adam Federici to add one of his own in the 11th minute.
Bournemouth pulled one back through Glenn Murray in the 22nd minute, but Sterling was on target again before the half-hour mark.
City, who were also without injured duo Aleksandar Kolarov and David Silva and had captain Vincent Kompany among their substitutes, hit the bar through Kevin De Bruyne before Sterling made the most of some dreadful Bournemouth defending to complete his hat-trick on the stroke of half-time.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side took their foot off the gas in the second half, but Bony rounded off a comprehensive victory with a smart finish in the 89th minute as City kept their two-point advantage over Manchester United at the top before Arsenal face Watford in Saturday’s late game.
After having a solid penalty claim for Nicolas Otamendi’s challenge on Dan Gosling denied, Bournemouth’s disappointment was compounded when they found themselves behind inside seven minutes.
Fernandinho’s cross-field pass was kept alive by Pablo Zabaleta on the byline, with Bony helping his header on to Sterling who supplied the finish at the back post.
City doubled their advantage soon after when Bony capitalised on a calamitous spill from Federici to slot into the gaping net.
Murray stunned the home crowd by pulling one back in the 22nd minute when he capped a neat Bournemouth move, finding the bottom corner with a shot from the top of the box that deflected off Eliaquim Mangala.
But City’s two-goal cushion was restored in seven minutes later as De Bruyne picked out the run of Sterling, who committed Steve Cook and Sylvain Distin before stroking beyond Federici.
The Bournemouth keeper produced a fine stop to tip a De Bruyne effort onto the crossbar in the 45th minute.
However, he was partially to blame as Sterling completed his hat-trick in first-half stoppage time, firing home from an acute angle after Jesus Navas made the most of miscommunication in the Bournemouth defence but saw his initial strike saved.
Sterling had two chances to add to his tally early in the second period but was unable to take either, stabbing the latter wide of the target after a clever pass from Bony.
Bournemouth maintained a solid defensive shape for the remainder, but Bony grabbed his second of the game late on to complete a resounding City win.