City restore their three-point lead at the top after the Belgium midfielder proved his class with the third-fastest hat-trick in Premier League history before he and Sterling add a fourth and fifth
MOLINEUX — Kevin De Bruyne scored a stunning 17-minute hat-trick as part of a four-goal masterclass and celebrated with a tribute to new teammate Erling Haaland.
Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-5 Manchester City (Dendoncker 11′ | De Bruyne 7′, 16′, 24′, 60′, Sterling 84′)
The Belgian Manchester City star marked his first-ever hat-trick for the club by mimicking the Norwegian striker’s goal celebration, a neat tribute the day after the club confirmed his £51.1million signing.
It was a crucial contribution for Pep Guardiola’s side, who were struggling with defensive injuries as they tried to respond to Liverpool’s equalizer at the top of the table 24 hours earlier.
And as De Bruyne brought his season record to a career-best 19 goals, City supporters might even have asked, “Erling who?”
But City had to fight back after gifting Wolves an 11th-minute equalizer that thwarted De Bruyne’s opener.
The goal came from a City attack as the hosts broke through Raul Jimenez and Pedro Neto’s cross and selected Leander Dendoncker for a cool finish.
With City using 37-year-old midfielder Fernandinho as an emergency centre-back, the league leaders looked under pressure but De Bruyne’s superb composure and some poor markings from Wolves ensured Guardiola edged closer to the title.
De Bruyne started with the opener in the seventh minute, played a skillful one-two with Bernardo Silva and sped through to leave Jose Sa in the Wolves’ goal.
And five minutes after conceding, City were back in front when De Bruyne played a through ball, Sterling seemed to break away from a tackle with Sa but the keeper could only deflect the ball into the Belgian’s run to convert.
The best choice was De Bruyne’s hat-trick goal as Sterling and Rayan Ait-Nourri battled for the ball.
De Bruyne picked up the loose ball and found space that opened up in front of him, advancing to the edge of the area and completing with an excellent 20-yard shot.
There was more defensive anxiety for City ahead of the hour when Aymeric Laporte twisted his knee in a tackle with Jimenez and had to be replaced by Nathan Ake, who was himself struggling with an ankle problem.
An injury to Laporte could potentially leave Guardiola without recognized centre-backs for the last two games at West Ham and at home against Aston Villa.
But after Sterling ruled out a try for offside, de Bruyne struck his fourth after the hour and started a move that ended with him converting a Phil Foden cross.
A clumsy drive on Ait-Nourri earned De Bruyne a booking in the 77th minute and it was time for someone else to get involved in the scorers’ list when Sterling converted a deflected shot from Joao Cancelo six minutes from time.