LONDON (Reuters) - Manchester City provided a timely reminder that they may still pose the greatest threat to Liverpool in the Premier League title race as they put second-placed Leicester City firmly in their place on Saturday.
Eight wins and a draw in their last nine games had seen Leicester emerge as the closest pursuers of runaway leaders Liverpool but they went down 3-1 at the Etihad despite taking an early lead through Jamie Vardy.
Riyad Mahrez, one of the heroes of Leicester’s incredible 2016 title season, equalised and Ilkay Gundogan’s penalty before halftime gave Pep Guardiola’s side the lead.
Gabriel Jesus confirmed the champions’ superiority after the break as they moved a point behind Leicester and 11 adrift of Liverpool, who have a game in hand because of their FIFA World Club Cup campaign which ended in triumph on Saturday.
The day’s action had begun at Goodison Park where Everton and Arsenal had their incoming managers in the directors’ box, with both left mulling over a dire 0-0 draw.
Italian Carlo Ancelotti was named Everton’s new manager an hour before kickoff while Mikel Arteta, who has swapped being Guardiola’s number two at the Etihad to return to former club Arsenal as the boss, sat close by.
Neither will have been encouraged by what they saw. Arsenal, in 11th spot, again failed to spark under interim manager Freddie Ljungberg who will make way for Arteta, having won only one of his six games in temporary charge.
Everton have been revitalised and unbeaten in three league games under former striker Duncan Ferguson but remain in 15th place — unfamiliar territory for former Milan, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Paris St Germain manager Ancelotti.
“Mr Ancelotti came into the changing room after the game. He made a lovely speech. Everyone is on board and we’re all looking forward to starting work on Monday,” Ferguson said.
“I still love the club, I still love the fans. I’d do anything for Everton fans, they know that.”
While the rebuilding starts at those esteemed clubs, Sheffield United’s first season back in the top flight goes from strength to strength as they beat Brighton & Hove Albion 1-0 to close in on the top four.
Oli McBurnie’s first-half goal saw Chris Wilder’s side move fifth on 28 points, one behind fourth-placed Chelsea who visit Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
Wolverhampton Wanderers, another club threatening to rearrange the furniture at the top of the table, came from behind to win 2-1 at relegation-threatened Norwich City.
Second-half goals by Romain Saiss and Raul Jimenez lifted Wolves to sixth, one point behind Sheffield United.
Aston Villa dropped into the bottom three after losing 3-1 at home to Southampton who, with the help of a brace from Danny Ings, climbed above them and out of the relegation zone.
Paraguay international Miguel Almiron scored his first Newcastle United goal at the 27th attempt in the league, striking late to earn a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace in a drab affair on Tyneside.
Burnley snatched a 1-0 win at Bournemouth with Jay Rodriguez pouncing in the 89th minute.
While Liverpool were being crowned world club champions with their win over Flamengo in Doha, the main domestic interest had focussed on the league’s late match between their two main pursuers.
When Vardy scored his 17th league goal of the season for Leicester, Brendan Rodgers’ side looked capable of a surprise win but Man City moved smoothly through the gears with Kevin De Bruyne again the architect of their victory.
Mahrez cut in from the left to equalise after half an hour and when Ricardo Pereira fouled Raheem Sterling to concede a penalty, Gundogan slotted past Kasper Schmeichel.
De Bruyne set up Jesus for the third, his 13th assist of the season, to confirm City’s superiority.
“Evenings like this are humbling and good for you, because our young squad can learn from it,” Rodgers, whose side face Liverpool next, said.
Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond and Ian Chadband