(Reuters) - MANCHESTER CITY 3 BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION 1
Champions Manchester City gave their departing midfield colossus Yaya Toure the ideal Etihad send-off by returning to record-breaking mode with a 3-1 rout of Brighton & Hove Albion on Wednesday.
Goals from Danilo, Bernardo Silva and Fernandinho saw City, who had suffered a goalless blip against Huddersfield Town on Sunday, take their season’s total to 97 points, eclipsing Chelsea’s Premier League-era record of 95 set in 2004-05.
Ivorian Toure could not land the dream goal to cap his splendid City career but City’s two first-half strikes, separated by a Leonardo Ulloa header for Brighton, ensured another record for most goals in a Premier League campaign.
City, who notched a 105th goal of the campaign through Fernandinho after the break, can now become the first English top-flight team to finish a season with a century of points and 32 wins should they prevail at Southampton on Sunday.
The best performance ever, statistically, in an English season came from Liverpool in 1978-79 when a win was still worth two points.
Translating those wins into three points per game, Bob Paisley’s side would have earned 98 points across 42 games, compared to City’s 100 from a 38-game campaign should they win at St Mary’s.
City also equalled the top-flight record of 31 wins in a season, set by the great double-winning Tottenham Hotspur side of 1960-61 on a night when they returned to their swaggering best.
City made eight changes from the side that failed to break down Huddersfield at the Etihad on Sunday but the rare start for Toure, one of the finest midfielders in Premier League annals, was the only one that mattered for the home faithful.
“We will give him what he deserves, one of the most beautiful farewells a player can receive,” City manager Pep Guardiola wrote in the match programme. “All through the game, we will be focused on winning for Yaya.”
The only thing that was missing was a goal for the 34-year-old, whose name was written as “Legend” on the teamsheet.
After he had come off in the 86th minute to a fabulous reception, Toure’s elder brother Kolo, another former City favourite, presented him with a commemorative shirt.
Despite the new-look team, there was never any doubt about City’s dominance, even after the Brazilian Danilo’s 16th minute finish was answered just four minutes later by Ulloa’s header.
The home side poured forward constantly and Silva’s 34th minute half-volley took City past the 103-goal mark set by another Chelsea team in 2009-10 before Fernandinho sealed the emphatic win.
Reporting by Ian Chadband,; Editing by Toby Davis and Ed Osmond