Manchester City won its 20th straight game in all competitions and opened up a 13-point lead in the Premier League by beating West Ham 2-1 thanks to goals from center backs Ruben Dias and John Stones on Saturday.
Playing less than 72 hours after a Champions League match in Budapest, City produced one of its sloppiest displays in recent months but emerged with its winning run intact as Stones swept in the decisive goal in the 68th minute from Riyad Mahrez’s pass.
Dias, Stones’ partner in central defense, put City in front off a header from a deep cross by Kevin De Bruyne in the 30th only for Pep Guardiola’s team to concede its first home goal in 2½ months when Michail Antonio equalized just before halftime.
It was City’s 14th win in a row in the league — only the sixth time that has been achieved in English top-flight history. Three of those have been attained by City under Guardiola since his arrival in 2016.
Manchester United and Leicester are tied for points as City’s nearest rivals, and both play Sunday.
Guardiola rotated his team, as he promised he would, and included record scorer Sergio Aguero in the starting lineup for the first time in the league since Oct. 24 — coincidentally against West Ham, too.
The injury-plagued Argentina striker lasted only 60 minutes before being taken off and he looked off the pace. He was partially to blame for West Ham’s 43rd-minute goal, too, after losing possession cheaply inside City’s half before the visitors broke forward quickly.
West Ham, in the unusually elevated position of fourth, allowed City few clear-cut opportunities at an empty Etihad Stadium and posed quite a threat at the other end.
Antonio struck the post before his goal, while center back Issa Diop headed narrowly wide in the third and final minute of stoppage time.