Referee Craig Pawson awards Manchester City a penalty for a foul on Kevin De Bruyne by Tottenham’s Jan Vertonghen. (Reuters Photo)
MANCHESTER, December 17 (AP): Arms wrapped around his head, Kevin De Bruyne was writhing in agony on the turf.
A stamp by Dele Alli, the Tottenham dynamo prone to hot-headed eruptions, typified the rough treatment faced by De Bruyne’s Manchester City on Saturday.
Tottenham just couldn’t cope against the exhilarating force of a team which is steamrollering opponents and the English football records.
De Bruyne’s right ankle was fortunate to escape serious damage being inflicted by the thrust of Alli’s boot. Alli was fortunate to avoid a red card, and De Bruyne was seething.
Payback came within a couple of minutes when the ball was bulging in the Tottenham net. De Bruyne lashed a shot past goalkeeper Hugo Lloris to net City’s second in a 4-1 victory over last season’s runners-up.
With a record 16th successive English top-flight win, City surged 14 points clear of both Manchester United, which travels to West Bromwich Albion on Sunday, and champion Chelsea.
The Premier League chasing pack is slipping further into the distance.
For many, like Tottenham which slipped to seventh, it is just about finishing in the four Champions League places.
Arsenal reignited that challenge by beating Newcastle 1-0, rising to fourth by ending a three-game winless run. Chelsea remains five points ahead of Arsenal after also beating Southampton 1-0 courtesy of Marcos Alonso’s free kick in first-half stoppage time.
For a Tottenham side that finished above City the last two seasons, the decline appears alarming. An eight-point lead over City at the close of business in May last season has been turned into a 21-point deficit, even before this season reaches its midway point in a week.
City, chasing its first Premier League title under Pep Guardiola, was gifted an opener in the 14th minute when Ilkay Gundogan was left unmarked to head in Leroy Sane’s corner.
Even though it took City until the final 20 minutes to extend its lead, this was a game controlled by the hosts with De Bruyne orchestrating the midfield in David Silva’s absence.
“You cannot imagine how good he plays in terms of the ball, but you also see how he runs,” Guardiola said. “Everything is easier for the manager.”
After De Bruyne fired in City’s second, he also won a penalty following Jan Vertonghen’s sliding challenge. Gabriel Jesus hit the post and the follow-up was off target from Raheem Sterling.
But Sterling still had time to find the net twice in the final 10 minutes. The first was the culmination of a counterattack started by De Bruyne. The second in the 90th owed much to Eric Dier missing the chance to block Bernardo Silva’s throughball, allowing Sterling to round goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and tap into the net.
Christian Eriksen scored a consolation once the game was far beyond Tottenham’s reach.
GOAL OF THE DAY
Mesut Ozil reminded Arsenal what it could be missing if he leaves at the end of the season on a free transfer.
The piece of magic from the German came with a 23rd-minute volley powered into the roof of the net from just inside the penalty area, lighting up a labored performance by his north London club against a relegation-threatened Newcastle.
“It’s important for him that he takes the risk to do what he did,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. “Usually he is a guy who, 99 percent of the time in this position, he controls the ball and gives it to somebody else.
“So I’m pleased he took the gamble to finish and I’m happy as well that he scored a very important goal.”
A power cut delayed Stoke’s home game against West Ham, and the lights could soon be going out on Mark Hughes’s tenure as manager after a 3-0 loss to the London club.
Stoke slumped to a fifth loss in six games to sit one point above the relegation zone. Marko Arnautovic defied jeers on his return to Stoke to score West Ham’s second goal, either side of Mark Noble’s penalty and Diafra Sakho’s strike.
BENTEKE DROUGHT ENDS
Christian Benteke ended a 13-game run without a goal for Crystal Palace, stretching into last season, in a 3-0 victory at Leicester. Benteke also set up Wilfried Zaha for Palace’s second. Leicester was reduced to 10 men when Wilfried Ndidi was shown a second yellow card for a dive on his 21st birthday.
Bakary Sako added a third for Palace, which is enjoying a seven-match unbeaten run that has lifted Roy Hodgson’s side two points clear of the drop zone.
HUDDERSFIELD ON RISE
Huddersfield climbed to 11th in the 20-team standings after winning 4-1 at Watford. Elias Kachunga scored the northern club’s first away goal since the opening day of its first top-flight campaign in 45 years. Aaron Mooy doubled Huddersfield’s lead midway through the second half.
After Watford striker Troy Deeney was sent off for a dangerous tackle, Laurent Depoitre extended the visitors’ lead at the start of the second half. It was 10 vs. 10 for the final half-hour after Jonathan Hogg received a second booking.
Although Abdoulaye Doucoure pulled one back, Mooy was on target again from the penalty spot in the 89th.
Burnley would have gone fourth with a win at Brighton but was held to a 0-0 draw. Brighton striker Glenn Murray missed a penalty.