By STEVE DOUGLAS, AP Sports Writer
LONDON (AP) – Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus scored more goals in 53 minutes on Saturday than he had in the previous eight months in the English Premier League.
Becoming the first player in the league to score four goals in one game this season, Jesus led City to a 5-1 thrashing of Watford to open a four-point lead over second-placed Liverpool in the title race.
Liverpool can trim that back to one point with five matches left by beating Everton in the Merseyside derby on Sunday.
Jesus has been something of an afterthought at City this season, scoring only three goals in the league before the arrival of the next-to-last Watford for a match that ended up resembling a training exercise.
The Brazil international netted twice in the first half and twice more in the opening eight minutes of the second half – one of which was a penalty to complete his hat trick.
Rodri scored the other goal – a dipping, long-range shot after collecting a pass from Jesus – for the City, which used the match to give key players a rest ahead of Real Madrid’s visit to the Champions League semifinals on Tuesday.
While City stayed on the course for the title, fierce rival Manchester United are likely to be dropped out of the race for the Champions League qualification.
By losing at Arsenal 3-1, United fell six points behind its top-four rival and manager Ralf Rangnick all but called time on his team’s season.
“I don’t think it’s very realistic to dream and think of the top four,” Rangnick said at the end of a week when United also lost at Liverpool 4-0 and hired a new manager, Ajax’s Erik ten Hag, for the start of next season.
Arsenal moved into fourth and was two points above north London rival Tottenham, which drew at Brentford 0-0 to drop to fifth.
In other games, the last-placed Norwich plunged closer to relegation with a 3-0 loss at home to Newcastle. It left Norwich eight points from safety with only five games remaining.
Mid-table teams Leicester and Aston Villa drew 0-0.
An emotional scoring return for Cristiano Ronaldo wasn’t enough for United.
The Portugal star missed the midweek castle to Liverpool while grieving the death of his newborn son but was back in the starting lineup against Arsenal.
Ronaldo raised his left arm and pointed to the sky after scoring in the 34th minute to make it 2-1, with Nuno Tavares and Bukayo Saka having already netted for Arsenal.
Ronaldo declined the chance to take a penalty that compatriot Bruno Fernandes wound up missing, with United manager Ralf Rangnick saying, “He just didn’t feel as if he should take it.”
Granit Xhaka clinched victory for Arsenal with a sweetly struck shot from long range in the 70th minute, completing an excellent week for Mikel Arteta’s team after its 4-2 win at Chelsea on Wednesday.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.