The resurgence of John Stones continued on Sunday as he scored twice in a 4-0 win against Crystal Palace, with Kevin De Bruyne registering his 100th Manchester City assist.
Crystal Palace were unbeaten in their last two visits to The Etihad, but Man City were in control throughout and took the lead with a milestone goal. De Bruyne nabbed his century of assists when Stones (26) nodded home his first Premier League goal for the club.
Man City added another shortly after the break with a sensational strike from Ilkay Gundogan (56), before Stones (68) slotted home his second of the evening after Vicente Guaita had initially saved Ruben Dias' header in his first-ever Premier League double.
Raheem Sterling (88) rounded off the victory late on with a sublime free-kick as Man City extended their winning run to five Premier League games.
- How the teams lined up | Match stats
- Get Sky Sports | Get a Sky Sports Pass
- Live football on Sky Sports
- Premier League table | Top scorers | Results | Fixtures
It was the perfect way for Pep Guardiola to mark his 50th birthday on Monday as Man City leapfrog Tottenham, Liverpool - who drew 0-0 with Manchester United earlier in the day - and Leicester into second, two points behind United with a game in hand. Crystal Palace remain in 13th and failed to have a shot on target.
How Man City swept Crystal Palace away
The opening 25 minutes were rather quiet by all accounts with Man City seeing some half chances and Crystal Palace doing well in attack, even without star man Wilfried Zaha.
The hosts saw the first real opening as Sterling drove forward after some poor control from Joel Ward and played in De Bruyne on his left, but his squared cross was seen away by Ward.
A minute later and Man City took the lead. De Bruyne's initial corner was cleared by Luka Milivojevic, but only as far as Sterling. He then picked out the Belgian again on the right wing, who lofted a wonderful cross into the area, which was nodded home emphatically by Stones.
It was the defender's first Premier League goal since April 2015 as De Bruyne registered his landmark Man City assist.
Man City: Ederson (5), Walker (6), Dias (7), Stones (8), Zinchenko (6), De Bruyne (8), Fernandinho (7), Gundogan (7), Sterling (7), Silva (7), Jesus (6).
Subs used: Foden (7), Torres (6), Cancelo (6).
Crystal Palace: Guaita (6), Ward (5), Tomkins (6), Cahill (6), Mitchell (6), McArthur (6), McCarthy (6), Milivojevic (7), Townsend (6), Eze (6), Ayew (6).
Subs used: Riedewald (5), Batshuayi (5).
Man of the match: John Stones.
The hosts could have added a second shortly before the break. Bernardo Silva floated a cross into the area, which was headed on by Gundogan. Gabriel Jesus was waiting in the middle to head home, but James Tomkins did just enough to put him off, with the ball landing safely into Guaita's hands.
Much like the first half, the second started rather quietly but it was brought to life with a stunning goal from Gundogan. Silva's corner was cleared by Milivojevic, but Andros Townsend could not keep the ball under his control. Gundogan nipped in to take it, turning round the Crystal Palace man before sending a sensational, curling effort into the far corner.
- Man City made four changes from midweek. Joao Cancelo, Rodri, Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden dropped to the bench and were replaced by Kyle Walker, Fernandinho, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus.
- Crystal Palace were without Wilfried Zaha (injury) and Cheikhou Kouyate (personal situation) in their matchday squad in three changes, with Christian Benteke on the bench. Gary Cahill, James McCarthy and Jordan Ayew came into the XI.
De Bruyne almost added a goal to his 100th assist, but fired just wide after the hour mark. Jesus tapped the ball into his feet and he was afforded all the time to set himself up, but ended up dragging his effort wide.
But it was the in-form Stones who added the third after and a corner was the catalyst once again. Dias nodded De Bruyne's delivery straight at Guaita, but Stones was lurking to slot home the rebounded ball for his second of the evening.
It was another sublime strike that sealed the victory for Man City in the final throes. Ferran Torres won a free kick on the right edge of the area and it was a sweet strike from Sterling into the top corner - his first goal from direct free-kick in his senior career - to seal a much-deserved three points.
Man of the match - John Stones
It was another superb performance from Man City's comeback kid. He only had two shots on target, but they were both goals, and well-taken ones at that. Defenders are known for their abilities in the air, but it was the Sergio Aguero-esque poachers goal for his second that was the most impressive.
He had the highest number of successful passes - 112 of his 117 made it at a rate of 95.7 per cent - and also led the way for touches (120). Let's also not forget that he helped keep a clean sheet too in his day job as centre back and helped gain possession six times, one fewer than Fernandinho.
Sky Sports co-commentator Andy Hinchcliffe said: "Stones had contributed enormously defensively to City's recent good run, but his contribution tonight has been all attacking. Two really good goals, lots of touches and he just looks so assured, completely different from the player we've seen previously."
What the managers said
Man City manager Pep Guardiola said: "[The performance was] excellent, we didn't concede. We had to be patient, we cannot lose out spaces when we lose the ball because they defend really well. They also have the quality to punish you in the set pieces and counter-attacks, of course they missed Zaha, who is an important player for them.
"But we were so stable and in the right moment, we scored the goals. It was an important victory after the last two seasons when we couldn't beat them [at home].
"This season with the back four, we don't make mistakes. In the past, especially last season, we made a lot of mistakes and allowed the opponents to score goals. This season, if the opponents score goals, then they have to do it and we applaud them.
"The most important this is the fact we don't concede much, so today we didn't concede one shot on target and I think this is fundamental for our game.
"Every player needs confidence but all the credit is just for him (Stones). If there is one player I am more than pleased that everything is going well, it's him. He deserves the best and nobody overcame this situation, just him. At the end, if he plays, it's because he deserves it and I'm happy for him.
"We fought a lot when we were eight points behind after the Southampton game and we've fought a lot to get up there [in the table] and we will fight a lot to maintain to be there. Many things are going to happen, it's a weird season and I don't think for one second 'where is my position in the table?'. What's going to happen in the near future is rest well and prepare for Aston Villa."
Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson said: "I thought the first half, we did very well. Obviously, they had a lot of the ball, which we knew they would have, but they didn't create many chances and I thought we were holding our end up very well.
"But I'm afraid we made a couple of quite blatant mistakes in the second half, often playing the ball back to the goalkeeper too much as well and it cost us. The goals they scored were fantastic goals but even so, if we could have done what we did in the first half throughout the game, we could have made it that bit harder and we wouldn't have lost by such a big margin.
"It's another defeat that is hard to take because I can't fault the players on the effort or how they went about their work to try and keep this very good team at bay. But we gave away the goal chances a little bit easily in the second half.
"With Wilf's pace and his ability to beat players, it's a wonderful quality that he has and a quality that we rely heavily upon and miss when he's not there.
"But even so, I still don't think we should have lost the game 4-0, Wilf or no Wilf, and the players are very upset in the dressing room that we once again have suffered a heavy defeat. Any defeat is difficult to swallow but to swallow a 4-0 defeat is harder."
- Manchester City are the first team to record five consecutive victories in the Premier League in 2020-21, while they're now unbeaten in nine games in the competition (W7 D2).
- John Stones and Ruben Dias have started together in 10 games for Manchester City in all competitions this season, while they've only conceded one goal across these 10 fixtures (W9 D1 L0).
- Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne has now made 10+ assists in a league season on five occasions while playing in the top five European leagues - since De Bruyne did so for the first time in 2014-15 while playing for Wolfsburg, only Lionel Messi has managed it on as many occasions as him (also five).
Man City are back in action on Wednesday when they welcome Aston Villa in the Premier League; kick-off 6pm. They will then travel to Cheltenham in the FA Cup on Saturday. Crystal Palace now have an extended break, back in on Tuesday 27 January when they host West Ham; kick-off 6pm.