Manchester City delivered in another high-scoring duel with Tottenham Hotspur, claiming a five-goal-thriller 4-1 to retain pressure at the top of the table.
Meetings between both sides have proved a goalfest since the turn of the 20th century, with the last six producing at least three goals. City emphatically dismantled their opponents 6-0 in this fixture last season and it was never going to be a dull moment as league game returned to the Etihad Stadium.
Sergio Aguero should have completed his hat-trick few minutes after the half-hour mark, but spurned a second attempt from the penalty spot after Spurs skipper Younes Kaboul rashly impeded David Silva in the area.
Nonetheless, the Argentina international’s brace either side of Christian Eriksen’s immediate equaliser saw the hosts nurture a 2-1 lead into the break. The striker’s brace was as well sufficient for him to claim the ‘Citizens’s’ top scorer in the English top-flight with 59 goals, overtaking compatriot Carlos Tevez- who left for Juventus last year- by one.
And he added two more after the break to increase his Premier League tally to 61.
The ‘Lilly Whites’ made three changes from the side that won 1-0 at home to Southampton before the internationals with Eric Dier, Federico Fazio and Roberto Soldado replacing Kyle Naughton, Jan Vertonghen and Emmanuel Adebayor.
Manuel Pellegrini made six changes from the team that won 2-0 at Aston Villa as Gael Clichy, Martin Demichelis, Bacary Sagna, Fernando, Jesus Navas and Frank Lampard all started.
After a high-tempo start that saw Eriksen threaten from the wings to get on the scoreboard, it was Aguero who bundled the ball inside the net in the 13th minute- his low curled effort from a Frank Lampard neatly served pass beating Lloris into the bottom-right corner of goal.
Eriksen responded for Spurs two minutes later after Fernando lost the ball in his own half; Ryan Mason with the loose ball released the Dane who dashed into the area and lashed a powerful effort past Joe Hart.
The end-to-end intensity of the match did not cease to drop and City were again rewarded for their fine link-up play, again orchestrated by Lampard, who this time fell- though replay showed the former Chelsea midfielder was in an offside position- to the turf in the goal area after being slightly brushed on the back by Erik Lamela while trying to receive a one-two from Milner.
Aguero stepped up to confidently roll into the bottom corner his seventh league goal of the season and restore City’s advantage on 20 minutes.
City were forced into an early change as Lampard went off injured having jiggered his thigh when stretching for a ball in a footrace with Mason, replaced by Fernandinho.
Referee Jon Moss awarded a second penalty to the hosts for a rash tackle on Silva by Kaboul but not even an acrobatic volley from Aguero after Lloris’s initial rebound and with the goal gaping for the ball could help double their lead before the interval.
City started the second-half strongly with Aguero forcing a brilliant save from Lloris four minutes after restart.
Spurs thought they should have been awarded a penalty when an Eriksen clipped ball from the left flank into the box stroked Sagna’s hand, but the centre-referee was uninterested.
The visitors finally got Moss pointing to the spot a minute after the hour mark after Demichelis clipped Roberto Soldado in the box, but the Spaniard attempt towards the bottom left corner was clinically parried by Hart and hacked away by the defenders.
Hart was on time three minutes later to deny the ex-Valencia striker’s effort from 12 yards after an assist from Danny Rose.
Spurs ended the match with ten men after Fazio brought down the goal-bound Aguero to receive a straight red card.
The Argentine defender was only a victim of a poor defensive play by Rose, who misjudged a high ball down the right flank of City area only for Navas to race clear to the byline before releasing Aguero through on goal.
Aguero neatly dispatched the ball into the net to complete his hat-trick. The striker added his fourth in the 75th minute after a counter attack, cutting inside the area to lash home a low shot into the bottom corner.
Milner almost added a fifth three minutes from time but his superb curled shot came off the right-hand post as Pellegrini’s men were rewarded for their swift forward play in the afternoon.