Kevin De Bruyne reminded Premier League leader Liverpool that there is a long season ahead after his goal in a 3-0 win over Aston Villa helped Manchester City narrow the gap at the top of the table to three points.
Raheem Sterling gave City the lead at Etihad Stadium before De Bruyne sent a curling ball into the Villa box and it drifted past goalkeeper Tom Heaton via an apparent glancing touch from David Silva.
Ilkay Gundogan added a third to put the game beyond Villa, who De Bruyne admitted caused City plenty of problems in a more evenly balanced first 45 minutes.
"In the first half we had some difficulty, a lack of intensity, and the rhythm was not really there," De Bruyne told BT Sport.
"Gabi [Gabriel Jesus] had a couple of chances to put us in front and the second half started really well with Ras' goal. After that, we had a good performance.
"In the first half they had couple of counter-attacks and we didn't cope really well. But it's going to happen, we played on Tuesday and they had the whole week [to prepare] so they're a little bit fresher but, in the end, we deserved to win."
The victory came three weeks after City suffered a shock 2-0 defeat at home to Wolves, handing Liverpool an advantage in the title race.
The Reds can restore a six-point gap over the champions by beating Tottenham on Sunday but De Bruyne is unperturbed by such an advantage.
"It's a long competition," said the Belgium international.
"We answered really well after the international break, won three in a row, so let's keep it going."
Even the sending-off of Fernandinho three minutes from time did not faze De Bruyne, who backed City's squad to cope with a list of defensive absentees that already includes Aymeric Laporte and Oleksandr Zinchenko.
Asked about the prospect of Fernandinho's suspension, De Bruyne replied: "You guys say the same whatever is happening, whoever gets injured.
"It's part of the game. We have a lot of injuries, but we've been coping really well. It's not nice because you want everyone to be there, but it is what it is."
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