MANCHESTER (REUTERS, AFP) - Manchester City moved 13 points clear at the top of the English Premier League table after a 2-1 win over West Ham on Saturday (Feb 27) - their 20th straight win in all competitions.
Pep Guardiola's side are closing in on their third Premier League title in four seasons thanks to priceless contributions from their in-form centre-backs.
The hosts took the lead in the 30th minute with central defender Ruben Dias heading in a Kevin de Bruyne cross for his first goal for the club, but the Hammers drew level through Michail Antonio two minutes before the interval.
The team secured their 14th consecutive league win, however, when Dias' fellow defender John Stones slotted home after being picked out by a Riyad Mahrez pull back.
Fourth-placed West Ham, who performed well throughout, had a late chance to grab a point, but Issa Diop failed to connect well with a header from a Jesse Lingard cross.
The win moves City, unbeaten in 27 matches, on to 62 points from 26 games with Manchester United behind them on 49 points from 25 matches. Leicester are level on points with United but third on goal difference.
City are enjoying the longest winning streak by an English top-flight team and are unbeaten in 27 games across all competitions, one match shy of their longest run without defeat under Guardiola in 2017.
"It was really difficult. After 10-15 minutes today we realise we are not going to paint anything beautiful," the Spaniard said.
"Second half we were much better than the first half. When you play a lot of games, in the league and then the Champions League, this is normal.
"We were lucky to get all three points. The mathematics matter at the end of the season."
United and Leicester can close the gap back to 10 points if they beat Chelsea and Arsenal respectively on Sunday.
But it is hard to imagine anyone catching City over the last 12 games of the season.
They survived a stern test from the Hammers and ominously for the rest of the league, Sergio Aguero returned to the City starting line-up for the first time in four months.
Once he gets his sharpness back, City's record goalscorer will provide a boost to their bid to win an unprecedented quadruple.
West Ham had won seven of their previous nine league games, but even they couldn't halt City's relentless march to the title.
Hammers boss David Moyes compared Guardiola to celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal this week for the way City's manager successfully cooks up winning teams from unlikely ingredients.
And the coach was at it again as he concocted a tasty dish with seven changes to the team that beat Borussia Monchengladbach in the Champions League last-16 first leg.