Manchester City have moved back above Liverpool at the top of the Premier League table courtesy their win over Cardiff City on Wednesday.
The signs looked ominous for the relegation-threatened visitors when City came flying out of the blocks and opened the scoring after less than six minutes through man-of-the-match Kevin De Bruyne.
However, it took Pep Guardiola’s side until the 44th minute to double their advantage through Leroy Sane, and despite a string of chances and overwhelming dominance they failed to add a third goal in the second half.
City nonetheless climb a point clear of Liverpool at least until the Reds face Southampton on Friday, whereas Cardiff remain five points from safety with just six games of their season to go.
The champions would not have to wait much longer for their opener, though, and it came in unorthodox fashion as the dangerous De Bruyne picked out the roof of the net from a seemingly impossible angle, beating Etheridge at his near post after the Cardiff keeper had wrongly anticipated a cross into the middle.
Even after only six minutes there was a feeling of inevitability about the goal, and at that stage it looked as though it would be a question of how many City would score with Sane testing the keeper again and Jesus firing over before the 15-minute mark.
The hosts were forced to settle for long-range efforts during a particularly stubborn spell from Cardiff, but they should have doubled their advantage five minutes before the interval when De Bruyne led a lightning counter-attack before giving the ball for Jesus, who failed to beat Etheridge at the near post when De Bruyne wanted a return pass inside.
Man City did finally break Cardiff’s resolve just before half time, though, as Mahrez stood a ball up to the back post for Jesus to cleverly chest down to Sane, who lashed a crisp first-time half-volley into the bottom far corner.
It was much the same pattern of Man City dominance in the second half too, and Phil Foden almost marked his first Premier League start with a goal when he latched on to Fernandinho’s pass before being thwarted by Etheridge six minutes after the restart.
Pep Guardiola’s side did soon up the tempo again, though, and they laid siege to the Cardiff goal during a six-minute spell which somehow did not end up with a third goal.
Even when City did find a way past Etheridge the woodwork came to Cardiff’s rescue, with Foden clattering a smart volley against the post before Fernandinho could only bundle the rebound wide.
It took until the 74th minute for Cardiff to finally register their one and only shot on target as Ederson comfortably gathered a tame strike from Oumar Niasse – a moment the travelling Cardiff players celebrated like a goal.
It was only the second shot on target Man City had allowed in their last four league games, though, and the first they had faced since March 9 as they enjoyed another dominant display.