Manchester City closed the gap at the top of the Premier League to two points as Carlos Tevez scored at hat-trick in a 6-1 win over Norwich City at Carrow Road.
The Argentinean was making only his second start since returning to club after going AWOL and he was ably aided by two brilliant Sergio Aguero goals before Adam Johnson hit a late sixth.
Paul Lambert’s side battled well at times but they were blown away by the quality of movement and interchange from the Citizens’ Argentine front two.
It was an exciting opening five minutes at Carrow Road and either team could have taken the lead.
Anthony Pilkington did well to cut inside Pablo Zabaleta at right-back, but his cross-cum-shot went just past Joe Hart’s far post.
City, meanwhile, got into the box through David Silva and there was a panicked scramble but Carlos Tevez couldn’t get a shot away.
Tevez was the subject of controversy in the eighth minute when it looked like he had gone down under no contact and was booked by referee Chris Foy, but replays showed that Ryan Bennett’s challenge had made contact with the Argentinean and could have been a penalty.
Teh Citizens had another claim turned down three minutes later, this time it was Sergio Aguero going down under another questionable challenge, but Foy was having none of it.
He was also having none of Hart’s protestations when it looked as though Pilkington was blocking him on the line as Joleon Lescott was called into action to clear Grant Holt’s header off the line.
Tevez took any decision out of the referee’s hands just before the 20 minute mark, when he picked up a pass from Silva just outside the area on the right and smashed home a fantastic strike inside John Ruddy’s near post.
It was a fine goal and Tevez’s second in two starts, but the Canaries would of held a little hard done by as they had started well.
Ruddy will also have to question what he was doing as it looked as though he was in the right position to deal with it – not great goalkeeping from a man who has been tipped for an England call-up.
City were looking dangerous on the break and they doubled their lead on 26 minutes with another exquisite strike.
Aguero broke down the left and played in Tevez, his international team-mate gave it straight back to him with cute backheel and City’s top scorer replied with a pin point striker into the top corner.
Norwich were battling well but there wasn’t a lot more they could have done to stop what were two sublime strikes.
As the half went on, the home side were finding it increasingly difficult to get at the resolute sky blue defence, though Holt did force a good save from Hart with a half-volley ten minutes before the break.
City were looking as comfortable as you can going in at half-time, so it was baffling as to how they were so abject coming out for the second period.
Norwich had been pressurising the Citizens back four well and it was a lot to do with the half-time introduction of Andrew Surman and Wes Hoolahan for Pilkington and Bradley Johnson.
And it was Surman got the Canaries back into it on 52 minutes when Hart punched away a Adam Drury cross and the former Southampton man fired home low through a crowd of bodies.
It was just rewards for Lambert’s side, who had been very impressive after the break.
The goal seem to wake city from their stupor and they quickly got back onto the front foot with a driving run from Tevez that was crudely halted by Bennett, which got the defender a yellow card.
Mancini’s side created another good chance on the hour when Zabaleta beat the offside trap but Ruddy closed him down well to block.
Ten minutes later Aaron Wilbraham beat the offside trap, just, but his shot was well blocked by Gareth Barry – it was end to end stuff in what had become an entertaining second half.
It was the man everyone was talking about that put the game to bed on 74 minutes – Tevez reacted best to the rebound from Ruddy’s save off of a shot from substitute Yaya Toure and looped his header over the prone keeper.
Aguero obviously did not want to be upstaged by his compatriot and two minutes later curled in a delightful effort into the top corner from the left corner of the box.
Five minutes later Tevez ensured he would be the name on everyone’s lips as he sealed his hat-trick with a gift from Bennett; the defender’s back pass was atrocious and the former United forward skipped past Ruddy with ease and rolled into the open net.
His celebration might divide opinion though, as he imitated a golf swing – a reference to his time AWOL in Argentina, where he played a lot of golf as his feud with the club went on.
It was an emphatic performance by Mancini’s side and substitute Adam Johnson finished it off in injury time, slotting home form Gael Clichy’s cross.
It was a satisfying day for City as they reduced the gap at the top to two points, putting pressure on Manchester United when they face Aston Villa at Old Trafford tomorrow.
The title race is out of their hands after a poor few weeks but Roberto Mancini will be satisfied his team made a statement at Carrow Road today, delivered in style by Carlos Tevez.
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