LONDON • For a team with Manchester City's ambitions, Huddersfield were obliging opponents.
Pep Guardiola's team duly took advantage of a side whose toes seem tagged for the relegation morgue and, in the process, renewed their threat in the Premier League title race after a comfortable 3-0 away victory yesterday.
The gap at the top of the table is back to four points and the message for Liverpool is loud and clear - it is going to be a heck of a job to shake City off.
Not that this was the most devastating performance the league champions will deliver this season.
Indeed, they might reflect it was a missed opportunity to add even more sheen to their goal difference.
Yet it is difficult to be too critical when the truth was Guardiola's men could win with something to spare despite a performance, by their high standards, that seldom got above six out of 10.
Since Liverpool's Roberto Firmino became the last player to score against them on Jan 3, City have now scored 23 times in all competitions without a single one coming back the other way.
NOTHING MORE THAN WE DESERVED
The way we played we didn't deserve more than three goals. We will improve in the future. We have to demand more from ourselves in every game and do our best.
PEP GUARDIOLA, Man City manager, on a relentless drive to better his side.
It works out at a goal, on average, every 17 minutes and, if anything, it was probably a surprise they did not add more goals against a Huddersfield side put together by caretaker manager Mark Hudson.
City were also denied a clear penalty when referee Andre Marriner missed Terence Kongolo's foul on Raheem Sterling and, to Guardiola's irritation, they might have allowed a touch of complacency to creep in once Danilo got lucky for the opening goal. Christopher Schindler inadvertently diverted the City defender's shot into his own net for their opener.
Maybe it was too straightforward for the away side. Too easy, even. Perhaps it was a direct consequence of neither David Silva nor Bernardo Silva starting the match.
Yet City did have Kevin de Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan at the John Smith's Stadium-and it would have been reasonable to think Sergio Aguero's focus might have been sharpened by the fact he had been chosen ahead of Gabriel Jesus, the scorer of seven goals in his last three matches.
Whatever the reason, it was certainly unusual to see the reigning champions take the lead, then drop their tempo rather than pour forward again, in the way that is expected of such a team.
Guardiola, one imagines, had a thing or two to say about it at half-time and City quickly put that right after the break, with goals from Sterling (54th minute) and Leroy Sane (56th) to wrap up the contest.
The scorers admitted that Guardiola had given his team an earful at the break for not going for the Terriers' jugular, with Sane revealing he "woke us up a little bit at half-time".
The German said: "We played quicker in the second half and were better positionally.
"He always tries to give us the solution, what we can do better, and he did it again."
And there can certainly be no slackening of standards with the Reds stretching their unbeaten home league run to 32 games after beating Crystal Palace 4-3 on Saturday.
Jurgen Klopp's men, in the process, set a club record of 60 league points from 23 matches, topping their previous best tally by one, and the German praised his side, calling the mark "crazy".
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN