Kevin De Bruyne’s brilliance propels Manchester City to the brink of Premier League title
If Erling Haaland is going to be the main man at Manchester City then Kevin De Bruyne might just have something to say about that. With four goals, including a first-ever Premier League hat-trick claimed in 24 minutes, he propelled City even closer to retaining the title.
After De Bruyne scored his third he even struck what appeared to be an adaptation of Haaland’s “yoga pose” goal celebration. What a combination they will be next season following the confirmation that City are signing the Borussia Dortmund striker. It could be scary for the rest of the league.
De Bruyne was simply brilliant. Ten out of 10. He is and has been for some time City’s outstanding player and he showed it again. They had arrived at Molineux with a little trepidation – it has never been an easy stadium for them – but left having imperiously restored their three-point lead over Liverpool and, perhaps crucially, further enhanced their goal difference.
If they beat West Ham United away on Sunday, a day after Liverpool play the FA Cup final, they will have one hand firmly on the Premier League trophy ahead of a final-day fixture against Aston Villa. The only concern was yet another injury to a defender as Aymeric Laporte limped off with a hurt knee.
It was a raucous start. First City struck, then Wolves hit back and then City responded. Twice. When De Bruyne scored his first goal it looked like it would ease any tension, especially in the way that he cut through the Wolves defence as he was allowed to exchange passes with Bernardo Silva, who threaded the ball through. De Bruyne ran onto it and angled a low shot across Jose Sa and into the net. On the bench, Guardiola pumped his fists.
City had already gone close, with De Bruyne curling a pass in and Phil Foden narrowly failing to get his studs on the ball, but it was when they threatened again that Wolves hit back. The ball was lost in the Wolves penalty area and, with City committing players forward, Raul Jimenez picked out Pedro Neto. He had far too much space down the left was allowed to run and run before eventually cutting the ball back for Leander Dendoncker to side-foot past Ederson. This time Guardiola took a glug of water. Was the concession a result of losing so many defenders (no John Stones, Ruben Dias or Kyle Walker)? Certainly City looked unusually vulnerable in that moment.
They brushed it aside. For some reason Wolves failed to track De Bruyne once again as he was found by Oleksandr Zinchenko and lifted the ball through to Raheem Sterling, who was beaten to it by Sa. However, it broke to the onrushing De Bruyne, whose shot ricocheted off the goalkeeper and into the net.
City – and, in particular, De Bruyne – were in the mood to kill the contest and the Belgian claimed his hat-trick as he collected Sterling’s lay-off from a throw-in and ran in from the right wing, holding off challenges. Wolves, who almost looked scared of him, retreated and that gave De Bruyne the space he needed to strike a powerful left-foot shot around Sa. Foden shook his head, almost in disbelief, as he joined the celebrations.
It took the air out of Wolves. City kept the ball and inevitably the hosts were reduced to trying to counter on the break. The home fans grew restless as the slim hopes of qualifying for European competition continued to disappear. Two desperate penalty appeals were turned down, as was one for City when Sterling went over.
There was lengthy treatment for Laporte after Jimenez fell against his leg and he struggled to move freely. Nathan Ake replaced him but not before De Bruyne unerringly scored his fourth. The midfielder started the move, pushing the ball out right to Foden, who tried to find Sterling. Ait-Nouri intervened but could only direct the ball to De Bruyne, who slammed it home.
It confirmed the result but he was relentless and powered forward again before laying the ball to Foden. With only Sa to beat, his shot cannoned back off the post. Sterling should have added to City’s advantage but failed to fully connect with Foden’s cross and ran into the post. Finally he got his goal when substitute Jack Grealish found Joao Cancelo, whose cross ran through to Sterling and he tapped it home. There was still time for De Bruyne to strike the post and Sterling also missed another opportunity. (© Telegraph Media Group Limited 2022)