Manchester City bounced back after their 21-game winning streak came to an end with a convincing 5-2 win over Southampton to move 14 points clear at the top of the Premier League.
City’s English top-flight record run came to an end against Manchester United on Sunday.
But Pep Guardiola’s men offered the second-placed Red Devils little extra encouragement that there was a route back into the title race as Riyad Mahrez and Kevin De Bruyne both struck twice.
City’s winning run had started against Southampton back in December when the Saints were flying high and above the now champions-elect in the table.
However, Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men have taken just nine points from their last 15 games to tumble down to 14th.
The visitors made a bright start before their leaky defence began to creak when faced with City’s array of attacking talent.
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De Bruyne smashed home the opener off the underside of the bar after Alex McCarthy had parried Phil Foden’s shot on 15 minutes.
The lead only lasted 10 minutes, though, as Jannik Vestegaard was hauled down by Aymeric Laporte after his initial header had been parried by Ederson.
James Ward-Prowse coolly converted the penalty straight down the middle. Moments later, City were denied a spot-kick themselves when McCarthy – recalled to the side ahead of Fraser Forster – wiped out Foden after overrunning the ball.
The England midfielder tried to stay on his feet to tap into an empty net, but, after the chance slipped away, VAR somehow did not intervene to tell referee Jon Moss to review the incident.
To their credit, City turned their anger from that injustice into goals before the break as the brilliant Mahrez pounced on a stray Che Adams pass before curling into the bottom corner on his favoured left foot.
The Algerian was also the creator for City’s third as his right-footed effort came back off the post and Ilkay Gundogan was in the right place to stroke home his 14th goal of the season.
Goals continued to flow at both ends after the break as Mahrez wriggled clear in the box again to fire in City’s fourth.
A miserly defensive record had been key to the run that allowed Guardiola’s side to streak clear at the top of the table.
But they have now conceded six goals in their last four games. With John Stones rested, Laporte did little to further his chances of starting big upcoming Champions League games as the Frenchman was again at fault as Adams drilled a loose ball home from close range.
Again City responded almost immediately as Foden teed up De Bruyne to score his second of the evening.
Guardiola could then afford to withdraw Mahrez and De Bruyne with Ferran Torres and Sergio Aguero making their returns from injury.
Torres, Foden and Bernardo Silva all flashed efforts just wide as City could easily have inflicted another embarrassing scoreline on Southampton, who have twice shipped nine goals over the past two seasons.
However, five were enough to show there is no sign of a City collapse as they close in on a third title in four years.