MANCHESTER (AFP) - Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola urged his men to continue their momentum after they finally found their shooting boots as Riyad Mahrez scored a hat-trick in a 5-0 thrashing of Burnley to bounce back to winning ways in the Premier League.
His team had scored just seven goals in their previous seven league games to slip to 14th in the table before Saturday's (Nov 28) kick-off. But for the fourth straight visit to the Etihad, Burnley conceded five times as City eased to within six points of league leaders Liverpool with a game in hand.
After the match, Guardiola told reporters: “It’s important for us to score goals and keep going.”
Mahrez was one of four changes the manager made to a squad that carved out a 1-0 win at Olympiakos in midweek that booked City's place in the last 16 of the Champions League, and the Algerian made the most of his chance to start, with Raheem Sterling left on the bench.
He opened the floodgates on six minutes as he swept home Kevin De Bruyne's pass. Mahrez then outwitted a sleeping Burnley defence as he latched onto Kyle Walker's throw-in before dancing round three challenges and firing on off the far post.
De Bruyne was handed a rare rest in midweek and the Belgian was back to his best with another assist for Benjamin Mendy to score his first City goal over three years since arriving from Monaco.
The French left-back produced an exquisite finish by cushioning De Bruyne's cross back across Bailey Peacock-Farrell, who had a Premier League debut to forget in the absence of England international Nick Pope.
After City's struggles to score goals in recent weeks, the hosts made sure to cash in after the break rather than saving their energies for a hectic upcoming schedule.
Ferran Torres has been prolific in the Champions League since his signing from Valencia, but the Spanish international finally opened his Premier League account with a smart finish from Gabriel Jesus's lay-off.
Torres was then replaced by Phil Foden and with his first touch, Foden was the provider for Mahrez to complete his hat-trick in uncharacteristic fashion with a bullet header at the back post.
VAR came to Peacock-Farrell's rescue after he turned the ball into his own net after a fine save to deny Jesus, with the goal ruled out for offside against the Brazilian striker, before De Bruyne smashed against the post late on.
However, five goals were enough for Guardiola's men to send out the message they are not out of a wide-open title race, especially with a favourable run of fixtures to come as Fulham, West Brom and Newcastle will also visit the Etihad before Boxing Day.