By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) – Manchester City soared above the fog swirling round the Etihad Stadium to demolish Tottenham Hotspur 4-1 and leave the rest of the Premier League peering into the distance in search of Pep Guardiola’s record-breaking team on Saturday.
Tottenham, who began the day fourth, were supposed to provide a proper test but, just like City’s previous 15 opponents, were outclassed as goals by Ilkay Gundogan before halftime and Kevin de Bruyne and two from Raheem Sterling after it put City 14 points clear.
City’s 16th successive win took them to 52 points, one game short of the halfway point of the season.
Manchester United, who play at West Bromwich Albion on Sunday, have 38 as do champions Chelsea who beat Southampton 1-0 on Saturday thanks to Marcos Alonso’s free kick.
Arsenal sent Newcastle United into the drop zone with a 1-0 win that lifted the Gunners to fourth with 33 points while Burnley are fifth, a further point back, after a 0-0 draw at Brighton and Hove Albion for whom Glenn Murray missed a penalty.
Tottenham tumbled down to seventh behind Liverpool, who are at Bournemouth on Sunday, on goal difference.
There were two big movers at the bottom with Crystal Palace winning 3-0 at Leicester City and West Ham United doing the same at Stoke City to move out of the relegation zone into 14th and 15th places respectively. Stoke are 17th.
Even without the absent David Silva, City were too clinical for Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham side and could even afford a second-half penalty miss from Gabriel Jesus.
“It was solid, good, against one team demanding to be intense without the ball,” Guardiola said.
“Since August we are so happy and I admire the most the way we play without the ball — thank you to the club to provide me with these amazing players.”
City’s attacking soccer is a thing to behold but there was nothing fancy about their 14th minute opener as Gundogan was left unmarked to head in from a corner — a goal Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino described as an early Christmas present.
To their credit Tottenham took the game to City in the second half but were cut open in the 70th minute as De Bruyne finished off a rapid counter-attack.
Sterling’s double in the final 10 minutes took his tally for the season to 15 in all competitions before Christian Eriksen scored a late consolation for the visitors.
“Today yes, they showed better quality than us. The better team won,” Pochettino said.
Chelsea have won eight of their last 10 games, but like Arsenal who beat Newcastle with a Mesut Ozil goal, are realistically playing for a top-four position unless City suffer a new year collapse of dramatic proportions.
“In the last 10 games we won eight games,” Chelsea boss Antonio Conte said. “Some people are forgetting this run because there is a team that is winning every game.”
At the bottom Christian Benteke went from zero to hero as he scored his first goal of the season, and Crystal Palace’s first on the road, as they trounced Leicester with Wilfried Zaha and Bakary Sako also on target.
Belgian striker Benteke made amends after disobeying team orders to take, and miss, a crucial penalty last week in a 2-2 draw with Bournemouth.
“The day after (the penalty miss) he came in and held his hand up, he spoke to the players and myself and made the point that he would make it up to team, and that is what he has done,” Palace manager Roy Hodgson said.
Marko Arnautovic scored against his old club Stoke as West Ham made it seven points from three games without conceding.
Huddersfield Town ended a long scoring drought on the road as they thumped stumbling Watford 4-1. Huddersfield’s Jonathan Hogg was dismissed in the second half for a second booking while Troy Deeney saw red for Watford in the first half.
(The story was refiled to change “injured” to “absent” in paragraph 8)
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis)