City, Arsenal, Liverpool Forge Ahead

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Sergio Aguero and Ilkay Gundogan each scored twice as Manchester City crushed West Bromwich Albion 4-0 yesterday to keep their noses in front in the Premier League. Arsenal won 4-1 at Sunderland and Liverpool prevailed 4-2 at Crystal Palace, but City’s win kept Pep Guardiola’s side above them both on goal difference as they ended a six-game winless run.

“When we lose there are always doubts,” said Guardiola. “It’s the first time I have not won in six games. Always you have doubts, (but) not over the principles.”

Jose Mourinho was sent to the stands and Ander Herrera dismissed as Manchester United drew 0-0 at home to Burnley despite having 37 shots at goal.

Guardiola, whose team host his former club Barcelona in the Champions League on Tuesday, made eight changes to his starting XI from Wednesday’s 1-0 League Cup defeat at Manchester United.

Aguero was among the players who returned to City’s starting line-up at The Hawthorns and his first-half brace effectively settled the game. He broke the deadlock in the 19th minute, slamming a shot between Ben Foster’s legs from Gundogan’s pass, and doubled his tally nine minutes later with a stunning shot from the edge of the box.

The goals ended Aguero’s six-game scoring drought and lifted his City tally to 149 — one more than club great Francis Lee. Aguero teed up Gundogan for City’s third in the 79th minute and the former Borussia Dortmund midfielder sealed victory in the last minute of normal time.

“We need Sergio,” said Guardiola, who dropped the Argentina striker for City’s 4-0 defeat at Barcelona. “He is one of the best.”

Arsenal had earlier strolled to victory at bottom club Sunderland, who are now seven points from safety and without a win after 10 league games. Alexis Sanchez put Arsenal in front in the 19th minute with a header from an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain cross. Jermain Defoe equalised from the spot in the 65th minute after Petr Cech was booked for impeding Duncan Watmore.

But Olivier Giroud restored the visitors’ advantage six minutes later, volleying in a Kieran Gibbs cross with his first touch after coming on. The France striker struck again five minutes later, a looping header from Mesut Ozil’s corner, and Sanchez completed the scoring two minutes after that with a neat close-range finish.

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool joined City and Arsenal on 23 points courtesy of an entertaining victory at Palace. Palace midfielder James McArthur hit back twice to haul the hosts level after Liverpool went ahead first through Emre Can and then Dejan Lovren.

But Joel Matip’s 44th-minute header restored the visitors’ advantage and Roberto Firmino chipped in from Jordan Henderson’s pass to seal victory with 19 minutes remaining.

Manchester United’s title hopes faded a little after their stalemate with Burnley left them eight points off top spot in eighth place. Former United goalkeeper Tom Heaton was Burnley’s saviour, producing stunning saves from Jesse Lingard, Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. United also hit the woodwork in the second half through Juan Mata and Ibrahimovic.

Mourinho was sent to the stands at half-time, reportedly after complaining about referee Mark Clattenburg’s failure to award Matteo Darmian a penalty. Herrera was sent off in the 70th minute after being shown a second yellow card for sliding in on Dean Marney.

“I think the referee did fantastic work. I won’t say more than this,” United assistant Rui Faria, who faced the media instead of Mourinho, said sarcastically.