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In-form Agüero hits four as Manchester City march toward title

Return to form is timely, with Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli looking for the national team’s players to produce strong performances ahead of the World Cup in Russia later this year.

Monday 12 February, 2018
Pep Guardiola hailed Manchester City’s Sergio Agüero as an
Pep Guardiola hailed Manchester City’s Sergio Agüero as an "authentic legend" after his four second-half goals continued the club's emphatic march toward the Premier League title with a 5-1 thrashing of Leicester. Foto:AFP-PAUL ELLIS

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Pep Guardiola hailed Manchester City’s Sergio Agüero as an "authentic legend" after his four second-half goals continued the club's emphatic march towards the Premier League title with a 5-1 thrashing of Leicester.
Raheem Sterling had given City an early lead on Saturday but Leicester went into the break on level terms thanks to Jamie Vardy's equaliser.

However, Agüero took centre stage with a finishing masterclass to take his tally in City's last seven home games to 14 goals as Guardiola's side moved 16 points clear.

"An authentic legend of this club," said Guardiola of his prolific Argentine striker. "In the second half he scored four goals. Sergio is like this, he has a special talent in the box. He's clinical... especially the third one and fourth one are amazing."

Aguero now has 28 goals in all competitions this season – eight more than Sterling.

“So we try to create a lot of chances to score the goals he does, and he always does. Congratulations to him because it's not easy to score four goals," added Guardiola.

“When one player is able to score four goals, he deserves all the credit and the nice words. He fights, he plays really good and he scored. We needed it.“

Agüero’s return to form is timely, with Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli looking for the national team’s players to produce strong performances ahead of the World Cup in Russia later this year.

‘One of the best’

Guardiola believes the weekend’s victory was “one of the best” performances his players have produced since he took over at City but urged them not to let their intensity drop, despite the 16-point lead the Blues hold at the top of the Premier League.

“My advice for the players is not to think how many games are left, just to look to the next one,” he said.

“Every time we dropped points this season, the next game we won, which is so, so important. Keeping that consistency is so important for us. If we are able to win the title it will be something special for us."

Leicester manager Claude Puel brought Riyad Mahrez off the bench in the second half as the winger made his first appearance since a self-imposed exile following the collapse of a deadline day transfer to City.

And Puel claimed both he and the Algeria international will not focus their efforts on the rest of the season without any issues.

“I said before my last press conference it was important for him to come back quick,” Puel said.

“He maintained a good level and it was important he was back in the squad. We have lost time and now it is important to look forward. The transfer window is finished.

“Since the beginning of the transfer window we took a decision with the club, to protect the squad. Riyad came back, and he is an important player. Now it is about time to move on together and of course we are stronger with him. It is important to move together with good solidarity and understanding together."

Plaudits for De Bruyne

But as impressive as Agüero was, City again owed a lot to Belgium midfielder De Bruyne, who created his side's opening three goals in another outstanding display.

"Luckily Kevin De Bruyne is playing for us and helping us to score," said Agüero, who with 143 Premier League strikes is now only three short of moving into the competition's top 10.

"I am very lucky because most of the goals come from his assists - I just have to hit the ball. I am happy for him as well. He is a great player and any team in the world would love to have him."

It was the perfect way for City to sign off from Premier League action for the month, with Pep Guardiola's side having Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup commitments in the next fortnight.

With a League Cup final date against Arsenal looming at the end of the month, Agüero says City are focused on silverware rather than individual plaudits.

"The goals are very important because they help the team to win," Agüero said. "But I think we are very close to achieving important things. That is why I am very happy, personally and for the team."

Weekend’s highlights

While De Bruyne was the creative fulcrum of Manchester City's latest demolition job, while Mousa Dembélé inspired Tottenham's north London derby triumph.

Manchester United star Paul Pogba is still struggling, but Swansea are on the up under Carlos Carvalhal.

Here are four things we learned from the Premier League this weekend:

Dembélé the midfield maestro

Mousa Dembélé underlined his status as one of Tottenham Hotspur’s unsung heroes with a dominant display in their 1-0 win over north London rivals Arsenal. It was Harry Kane's latest goal-scoring exploits against the Gunners that took centre-stage at Wembley, but the platform of that success was built by the industrious Dembélé. Embodying Mauricio Pochettino's obsession with physical intensity, while more than capable of picking a decisive pass, Dembélé out-shone Arsenal in the midfield engine room, earning praise from his manager. "Last season he played so well, this season he suffered a problem in his ankle and struggled in pre-season. Now he is playing well again," Argentine coach Pochettino said. "He is an unbelievable player. We have to be careful about his fitness. When he can train he can make this type of performance."

Pogba flops again

As if losing 1-0 to struggling Newcastle wasn't enough to have Jose Mourinho seething, the Manchester United boss once again had to suffer the frustration of Paul Pogba's latest flop. Mourinho had restored Pogba to the starting line-up after dropping him for United's previous match – a decision inspired by the former Juventus midfielder's limp efforts in a defeat at Tottenham. But rather than grasp the opportunity to get back in Mourinho's good books just days after his boss had defended their relationship, Pogba was again a largely anonymous figure at St James' Park. By the time he was substituted midway through the second half, United were already trailing, but publicly at least, Mourinho remains supportive. "No problems," he said when asked about the France international. "I wanted a better way (in midfield) against a side that was defending in a block. I wanted the simplicity of Michael Carrick."

Carvalhal has Swansea cooking

Carlos Carvalhal has served up amazing results and interviews in equal measure since he was surprisingly appointed to spearhead Swansea's fight for survival on December 28. Saturday was no different as Ki Sung-Yeung's winner nine minutes from time after Carvalhal had thrown on two extra strikers took the Welsh side out of the relegation zone. When the Portuguese arrived, Swansea were bottom of the table and five points adrift of safety. "It was time to put all the meat on the barbeque," said the colourful Carvalhal of his attacking instinct. Swansea have now won more points, 14, in Carvalhal's seven games in charge than the 13 his predecessor Paul Clement collected in 20 matches.

Southampton slide into bottom three

Whilst Huddersfield, Newcastle and Swansea enjoyed morale-boosting wins, Southampton's slide continued as Mauricio Pellegrino's men were swept aside 2-0 by Liverpool. A run of just one win in their last 14 league outings has seen the Saints slip into the bottom three. An unwillingness to spend the £75-million bounty they received from Virgil van Dijk's move to Liverpool in January could come back to cost the Southampton hierarchy as they look short of inspiration in attack and are badly missing the Dutchman in defence.

- TIMES/AFP


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