Pep Guardiola hailed his Manchester City players after the champions continued their stunning response to defeat at Newcastle by thrashing Chelsea 6-0.
Sergio Aguero scored a hat-trick – a record-equalling 11th in the Premier League – as City powered back to the top of the Premier League by demolishing Maurizio Sarri’s men at the Etihad Stadium.
The victory was City’s third in the space of eight days since a surprise defeat at St James’ Park, with Arsenal and Everton having also been brushed aside.
Guardiola, whose side lead Liverpool at the top on goal difference, said: “After three games in a week – tough games against Arsenal and at Goodison Park – playing the way we played with this intensity and patience to find spaces in the right moments, the players were outstanding.
“I just said to them thank you for what they have done.
“After Newcastle we spoke to each other and put ourselves in front of a mirror, and accepted the reality. After that we worked, moved forward.
“We are there, we are the leaders, but Liverpool have one more game (in hand).”
Asked if it was one of City’s best performances of his reign, Guardiola said: “Yes, we played good.
“The first four times we arrived we scored three goals. Sergio missed one but after he made an incredible goal.
“It was not easy because Chelsea demanded a lot and we defended deeper, like never before, because they have the quality to find spaces. They created problems.
“Six goals against Chelsea is not easy and we are so pleased for this week. Now we can have two days off and prepare for Newport and the (Carabao Cup) final.”
Aguero’s hat-trick equalled Alan Shearer’s competition record of 11 and was also his 15th in City colours. In the process he also became City’s record league goalscorer with 160.
He should even have had more having missed a sitter in the early stages and hit the bar.
Raheem Sterling also scored twice, with Ilkay Gundogan netting City’s other goal.
Asked what he thought of Aguero’s miss, Guardiola said: “He said to me he saw Kepa coming quick to close the space and he wanted to be precise, close to the post. That way he missed.
“I told him not to do it again but, after, his reaction was a little bit better!”
Guardiola, who won three La Liga titles and two Champions Leagues in charge of Barcelona, was asked how his current side compared to the one he had at the Nou Camp.
He said: “We have won three titles since we have been together. In Barcelona we won much, much more.
“But in spite of the titles, the desire to do their best and respect for where they are is incredible. That is quite similar, but I don’t want to compare.”
Maurizio Sarri feels he is “always at risk” of being sacked by Chelsea after watching them succumb to their heaviest defeat in almost 28 years.
The pressure intensified on the Italian after Sergio Aguero’s 11th Premier League hat-trick, Raheem Sterling’s double and Ilkay Gundogan’s goal wrapped up an incredible 6-0 win for Manchester City.
A miserable day at the Etihad Stadium was Chelsea’s worst result since losing 7-0 to Nottingham Forest in April 1991 and comes less than two weeks after a shock 4-0 hammering at Bournemouth.
Sarri made an encouraging start to his tenure as Chelsea were unbeaten after their first 12 top-flight matches under him but the Blues have faded out of title contention and face a battle to finish in the top four.
Their manager accepted he is concerned by their recent displays but gave a considered assessment when asked whether he fears for his future.
He said: “I don’t know, you have to ask the club. I am worried about my team, I am worried about the performance but my job is always at risk so I am not worried about the club. You have to ask the club.
“I didn’t see my football (against City). At the beginning (of the season) it worked. So now we need only to understand the reasons why at the moment it isn’t working. We need to understand the reasons.
“It is not easy. At the beginning, we played better away than at home. Now we are playing better at home than away.
“Something is changing. At the moment I am not able to see the reason but I have to work for this because my target is to play my football, not to change another football because at the moment we are playing another football.”
Following the loss to the Cherries on the south coast, Sarri was openly critical of the mentality of his players and that he could not motivate them.
They duly responded by thumping Huddersfield 5-0 last weekend but were once again thoroughly outclassed on Sunday afternoon.
Sarri, though, did not think they were struggling for motivation this time.
He said: “No, I don’t think so. My feeling during the week was really very good.
“My feeling was that in this match the motivation was at the right level. I think we started well then we conceded the goal after four minutes in a stupid way.
“In that moment, we needed to stay in the match and we were not able to because we made a lot of mistakes against the wrong opponents. We have to say they played really fantastic football.”
Sarri, whose side slipped to sixth, did not shake the hand of his opposite number Pep Guardiola at full-time but insisted he was merely eager to return to the dressing room.
He added: “I didn’t see him at the moment but of course as usual I will go to say hello to him later as usual.
“It was by chance because I wanted to go to the dressing room and at the moment I didn’t see him. I have not a problem with Pep.”
Guardiola, too, played down any speculation of a rift as he said: “I spoke with (Chelsea assistant) Gianfranco Zola. (Sarri) didn’t see me. I have a good relationship with him so no problem.”
The Spaniard empathises with the scrutiny Sarri is under and believes the former Napoli coach needs time to implement his ideas.
Guardiola added: “I know exactly what he wants to do. This kind of person or this type of game always helps to make our football better. He wants to try to do that.
“People don’t understand how difficult the first year can be. Mine was difficult too. People expect with a new manager and buying players it comes immediately, but it needs time.”
Manchester City sent a warning to title rivals Liverpool with a stunning demolition of Chelsea, with Sergio Aguero’s record-equalling 11th hat-trick leading the reigning champions to an incredible 6-0 victory.
The result saw City retake the lead atop the table, three points above Liverpool having played a game more, while Chelsea dropped to sixth.
Here’s how the players from both sides rated in a memorable Premier League clash.
Ederson 7 – Made a wonderful save to tip over an equally-superb volley from Gonzalo Higuain but was kept relatively quiet as City’s attackers came to the fore.
Kyle Walker 7 – An assured performance from the England full-back as he kept Chelsea talisman Eden Hazard subdued.
John Stones 7 – Was regularly able to disrupt Chelsea’s rare forays forward.
Aymeric Laporte 7 – Chelsea’s attacking might was strangled by his and Stones’ interventions.
Alexander Zinchenko 8 – A tireless performance from City’s left-back, whose cross allowed Raheem Sterling to complete the scoring.
Ilkay Gundogan 7 – Took his goal well and rarely conceded possession, justifying his selection ahead of David Silva.
Fernandinho 7 – Usual busy presence in the centre of midfield.
Kevin De Bruyne 7 – His quick thinking from a free-kick freed Bernardo Silva on the right, leading to City’s opener. Starting to show signs of his best form after an injury-plagued season.
Bernardo Silva 8 – Gave Marcos Alonso a torrid time on Chelsea’s left-hand side. Was regularly in the thick of the action and provided the assist for Sterling to open the scoring.
Sergio Aguero 9 – Conspired to miss from two yards but proved his class by expertly finding the top corner from distance. Scored twice more for his 11th Premier League hat-trick.
Raheem Sterling 9 – A dynamic performance saw the England forward book-end the scoring while he won the penalty that helped Aguero bag his third.
Gabriel Jesus (on for Aguero, 65) 6 – Had a couple of opportunities to get on the score sheet but was unable to take them.
Riyad Mahrez (on for De Bruyne, 68) 6 – Gave City fresh legs in the latter stages.
David Silva (on for Fernandinho, 75) 7 – Opened up Chelsea’s defence for Zinchenko to tee up Sterling’s second.
9 - Sergio Aguero has scored nine Premier League hat-tricks at the Etihad - the most by a player on a single ground, breaking the record held by Thierry Henry at Highbury (eight hat-tricks). Homely. pic.twitter.com/paQDUIF4PL— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 10, 2019
Kepa Arrizabalaga 5 – Probably should have done better with Gundogan’s low strike but was relatively blameless for the City onslaught.
Cesar Azpilicueta 5 – Conceded the penalty after tripping Sterling, who gave his Spanish marker a tough afternoon.
Antonio Rudiger 5 – Unable to contain the relentlessness of Aguero.
David Luiz 5 – Was powerless to stem the tide.
Marcos Alonso 5 – Unable to handle the creativity of the indefatigable Bernardo Silva, especially in the first half.
N’Golo Kante 5 – A below-par performance from the Frenchman, who sometimes found himself bypassed.
Jorginho 6 – Found himself overrun at times although he was always a willing runner.
Ross Barkley 4 – Inexplicably headed towards his own goal which allowed Aguero to score his second and City’s third, effectively ending any hope of a comeback.
Pedro 5 – A largely anonymous display from the Spaniard.
Gonzalo Higuain 6 – Long-distance volley well saved by Ederson but was unable to impose himself.
Eden Hazard 5 – Caught napping for City’s opener, allowing Bernardo Silva to latch on to De Bruyne’s free-kick, and his mazy runs often came to nothing.
Mateo Kovacic (for Barkley, 52) 6 – Brought on to shore up Chelsea’s midfield.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek (on for Pedro, 65) 5 – Could not make an impact.
Emerson (on for Alonso, 73) 6 – Tidy enough from the Italian.
1.2% of the goals Chelsea have ever conceded in the PL have come in their last three away games— Duncan Alexander (@oilysailor) February 10, 2019