Manchester City exposed the first cracks in Arsenal’s title challenge on Saturday, beating the Premier League leaders 6-3 at the Etihad Stadium as their attackers cut loose in another free-scoring display.
City’s stylish showmen sealed their eighth consecutive home league success in an exhilarating match by outgunning Arsenal, whose advantage at the top was cut to two points after Chelsea snuck in a 2-1 win at home to Crystal Palace.
It was the third time this season that City have scored six goals or more and the win moved them up to third place, within three points of the top spot.
Manchester City, whose early opener from Sergio Aguero was canceled by Theo Walcott, opened up a two-goal lead with efforts from Alvaro Negredo and Fernandinho on either side of halftime.
Arsenal rallied with a superb second by Walcott, who curled the ball into the top corner, but David Silva restored City’s two-goal advantage from close range and Fernandinho poked home his second to help City retain their 100 percent home league record.
Even defender Per Mertesacker’s late consolation goal for Arsenal was trumped by City, as Yaya Toure stroked in a stoppage-time penalty.
The final whistle prompted a scuffle between Mertesacker and Mesut Ozil, with the centerback seemingly angered by his Germany teammate’s reluctance to applaud the visiting fans.
Arsenal’s failure to pull clear at the top was a fillip for Chelsea, but struggling Crystal Palace proved trickier opponents than expected and manager Jose Mourinho ended the match grateful to Petr Cech for helping them over the finish line.
The Chelsea goalkeeper made a string of fine saves to keep the visitors at bay after midfielder Ramires put the home side back in front with a curler 10 minutes before halftime.
Fernando Torres had given Chelsea the lead after 16 minutes with a tap-in, but Palace striker Marouane Chamakh scored for the third consecutive league game with a volley to equalize.
Everton’s 4-1 win over visitors Fulham moved them into the Champions League spots as they jumped to fourth, while at the other end of the table, West Ham United played out a 0-0 draw with bottom side Sunderland that was of little use to either team.
Newcastle United and Southampton drew 1-1, while Cardiff City beat West Bromwich Albion 1-0, after which the the Midlands club moved moved swiftly to sack manager Steve Clarke.
“West Bromwich Albion have this evening relieved head coach Steve Clarke of his duties and placed him on gardening leave with immediate effect,” the club said in a statement on Saturday.
West Brom, who sit two points above the relegation zone, have won only once in their past 10 league matches.
In Saturday’s late game, mid-table Hull City and Stoke City drew 0-0.