Sergio Aguero scored his 12th hat-trick to become the highest overseas goalscorer in Premier League history in rampant Manchester City’s six-goal hammering of struggling Aston Villa.
The Argentine moved level – and then past – Thierry Henry, before joining Frank Lampard on 177 goals in England’s top flight.
Only three men – Alan Shearer, Wayne Rooney and Andy Cole – are still ahead of him on the all-time Premier League list. Aguero’s number of hat-tricks is a Premier League record.
It was part of a merciless City performance as they took apart a Villa side who were suffering their worst defeat since Liverpool beat them at 6-0 at Villa Park in February 2016 and have dropped into the relegation zone.
Riyad Mahrez scored the first two, with Gabriel Jesus splitting Aguero’s double just before half-time.
The result leaves City second, the highest position they have occupied following a full round of matches since the beginning of November, although they remain 14 points behind leaders Liverpool, having played a game more.
It is scarcely believable now but there were some people who thought City had wasted their money when they spent £40m to buy Aguero from Atletico Madrid in 2011.
He scored twice against Swansea on his debut and it feels like he has not stopped finding the net since.
Aguero’s most famous goal came at the end of that first season, against QPR to win the title, but for City fans his impact goes way beyond that single strike.
The 31-year-old is the club’s record scorer and now needs only one more to reach 250 for the Blues in all competitions.
His first was a ferocious effort, the third a clinical strike after he had been given a clean sight of goal.
But maybe the best indication of the relentlessness with which Aguero goes about his job came from the long conversation he had with Mahrez after the half-time whistle had gone, when he demanded to know why his team-mate had not set him up about five minutes earlier.
City were 4-0 up at the time.
Sobering return for Drinkwater
It was a sobering return to action for Danny Drinkwater, who joined Villa on loan from Chelsea in midweek after a similar stint with Burnley came to an end.
This was Drinkwater’s fourth appearance since March 2018 and remarkably meant four of the last five games he had played were against City – for three different clubs – all of which have ended in defeat.
Drinkwater started quite well, with a couple of simple touches.
But it wasn’t long before he was showing clear signs of rustiness after being deprived of match action for such an extended period of time.
Drinkwater would have known Mahrez’s strengths – he shared a dressing room with him as Leicester won the title. But he was powerless to stop the Algerian stepping around him, before darting into the area to put the visitors in front.
Six minutes later, Drinkwater unwisely decided to control and assess his options as the ball broke to him off Aguero deep inside his own box.
David Silva afforded no time, biting into the challenge and providing Mahrez with the opportunity to crash home his second.
After that it was an exercise in chasing shadows for the former England man, who needs to find his form quickly if he is to help Villa out of the problems they find themselves in.
Problems mounting for Villa
Watching from the stands, goalkeeping duo Tom Heaton and Pepe Reina were powerless to stop the first-half carnage.
With Heaton on crutches as a legacy of the season-ending knee injury he suffered at Burnley on 1 January, and Reina not registered in time to feature as he is about to complete a loan move from AC Milan, Orjan Nyland was handed his Premier League debut.
It proved to be a torrid afternoon for the 29-year-old Norwegian, who became the first goalkeeper in Premier League history to concede six goals on his first start in the competition.
Nyland was beaten at his near-post for the opener and Aguero’s historic effort seemed to go straight through his hands.
Reina will surely start at Brighton next Saturday, knowing Villa must improve on their record of two top flight clean sheets since 16 September.
Villa now have a worse goal difference than Southampton, and they suffered that 9-0 home defeat by Leicester on 25 October.
A few fans headed for the stairs with their side 3-0 down after half an hour but the majority stayed with their team to the end and cheered loudly when Anwar el Ghazi scored their injury-time consolation from the penalty stop.
But, with a Financial Fair Play issue hanging over them if they return to the Championship after a single season in the top flight, it looks like being a busy couple of weeks for Villa as they try to bolster Dean Smith’s squad.
Man of the match – Sergio Aguero (Manchester City).
‘We gave City too much respect’ – what they said
Aston Villa boss Dean Smith: “It’s tough when you come up against world-class teams.
“There’s a professional pride as a coach and a team, and the third goal summed it up – they had about 20 passes without us laying a glove on them.
“We gave them too much respect.
“Our season is not going to be defined by defeats by Man City and Liverpool. You have to learn from this.
“We have to ask why weren’t we competitive and why we gave them too much respect.”
Goals, goals, goals – the stats
- Since the start of the 2016-17 season, Manchester City have scored 343 Premier League goals – 42 more than any other team.
- This was Pep Guardiola’s 300th top-flight league win as a manager – he has reached that tally in just 390 games with Barcelona, Bayern Munich and City.
- City’s David Silva has assisted 21 Premier League goals for team-mate Sergio Aguero – the only player to assist another more in the competition is Frank Lampard for Didier Drogba (24 goals).
- City’s Riyad Mahrez is the only Premier League player to both score and assist 20 goals since the start of last season in all competitions (21 goals, 23 assists).
- In all competitions, City’s Kevin de Bruyne has assisted 15 goals this season – five more than any other Premier League player.
- Gabriel Jesus has started 76 matches for City in all competitions – he has been directly involved in 71 goals in those matches (54 goals, 17 assists).