Kevin de Bruyne starred on his return after two months out as Manchester City reinvigorated their top-four hopes with a sparkling win over Bournemouth.
Three of City’s goals came in the first 18 minutes, with Fernando opening the scoring from a Jesus Navas corner.
De Bruyne made it 2-0 when he volleyed home David Silva’s flick and Sergio Aguero headed a third soon after.
Bournemouth had no response and Aleksandar Kolarov blasted in City’s fourth with the last kick of the game.
City’s win means they are now 12 points behind Premier League leaders Leicester with seven games remaining but their recent form means it is more relevant they increased their lead on fifth-placed West Ham to three points, after the Hammers were held by Crystal Palace.
The Cherries, meanwhile, remain two points off the 40-point mark, but their 11-point cushion above the bottom three still looks a healthy one.
City find some form at last
A run of one win in their previous six league games had all but ended City’s title hopes, and put their prospects of finishing in the Champions League spots in doubt as well.
Their away problems have been more longstanding – after winning their first three away league matches of the season, they took only 11 points from their next 11 games on the road, managing just seven goals.
There were no signs of those struggles at the Vitality Stadium, however, and they ripped Bournemouth apart with a devastating attacking display early on.
City head to French champions Paris St-Germain next, in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final, on the back of a performance that will give them reasons to be optimistic that more goals will follow.
Pellegrini pleased with pressing game
City boss Manuel Pellegrini felt his side’s high-tempo pressing game was behind the fast start that led to their comfortable victory.
Pellegrini told BBC Sport: “Our style of play was the way I like us to play. The most important thing was to return to our style of play.
“We played very well, especially the first half where we pressed very high, and scored three beautiful goals.”
The move that led to De Bruyne’s goal started when Bournemouth’s Charlie Daniels lost the ball on the edge of his own area.
“Part of the mistake was down to the pressure we put on to recover the ball,” Pellegrini explained.
“That was very important because we were a team that was pressing three four or five times just on that occasion. Then when we won it back we finished with the quality we have.”
De Bruyne makes a brilliant return
At the end of a week where they discovered they could be without Yaya Toure and Joe Hart as well as skipper Vincent Kompany for their trip to Paris, a returning star gave City some reason to be cheerful.
De Bruyne has been sorely missed since he injured his knee at the end of January, with City winning only four out of 12 games without the £55m Belgian.
He marked his return with a superbly taken goal, a volley relying on placement rather than power from the edge of the box, and came close to an equally spectacular second when another volley was palmed away by Artur Boruc.
He came off after 57 minutes to a deserved standing ovation and, when he is fully fit, City’s chances against any opposition are clearly improved.
Man of the match – Kevin de Bruyne
First goal hurts most for Howe
Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe said afterwards that he felt his side “caught City on a good day” but also rued some self-destructive defending.
Howe told BBC Sport: “The first goal was probably the most disappointing one because it was from a set-play, a poor ball in really, and we have not dealt with it.
“When you give a good team an early goal it gives them a lift and it makes it very difficult.
“It was a long game from 3-0 down so credit to the players that they did not cave in but it was a difficult watch, especially early on.”
Bournemouth took 30 minutes to register their first effort on target – a Steve Cook header that forced a good stop from Willy Caballero – and did not manage another until Matt Ritchie let fly from distance in the 92nd minute.
City head for Paris, then play host to West Brom next Saturday.
On the same day, Bournemouth will be in action at Villa Park, where a Cherries win and a combination of other results could relegate Aston Villa.
The stats you need to know
- Fernando bagged his first goal since March 2015 when he scored against West Brom.
- Only Sergio Aguero (17) has scored more Premier League goals for Man City this season than Kevin De Bruyne (6).
- David Silva (11) is second only to Mesut Ozil (18) for assists in the Premier League this season.
- No player has scored more Premier League goals in 2016 than Aguero (10, level with Harry Kane).
- Man City have scored seven first-half goals against the Cherries this season.