London (AP) – Kevin De Bruyne felt he was never given a fair chance during an 18-month spell at Chelsea where he played nine games before asking to be sold for the sake of his career.
Nearly four years later, the Belgium midfielder returned to Stamford Bridge as a highly coveted and more rounded player with Manchester City, and showed his former club exactly what they lost.
De Bruyne helped City assert control of the biggest game of the English Premier League so far, then secured a 1-0 win with a 25-yard shot that flew into the top corner in the 67th minute.
“What happened, happened,” De Bruyne said. “I have no regrets coming here — it made me stronger in my ways.”
Playing in a deeper role as a center midfielder rather than as the winger who arrived at Chelsea in August 2012, De Bruyne is proving to be a crucial part of a City team that have won six of their seven league games — drawing the other one — and are unbeaten in 10 matches in all competitions.
Even without Sergio Aguero and Benjamin Mendy, who sustained injuries over the past week, City dominated Chelsea in what left back Fabien Delph described as a “big message” to the rest of the league.
City stayed in first place on goal difference from Manchester United, who won 4-0 against a beleaguered Crystal Palace side that are still without a point or a goal.
Romelu Lukaku scored his 11th goal in 10 games for United this season. Another player who cannot stop scoring is Harry Kane, who finished September with 13 goals from eight games by scoring twice in Tottenham’s 4-0 win at Huddersfield.
There were also wins for West Ham and Stoke.
CITY’S SIGNATURE WIN
Three days after delivering one of their best European away displays to beat Atletico Madrid in the Champions League, Chelsea were overwhelmed by City’s movement and passing ability. The hosts weren’t helped by the loss to injury of striker Alvaro Morata in the first half.
De Bruyne’s goal came when he collected a pass from defence with a first-time flick to Gabriel Jesus. The striker laid the ball off instantly to De Bruyne, who surged through to the edge of the box before unleashing a left-footed shot that flew past goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
“He made absolutely everything,” City manager Pep Guardiola said. “He scores, assists, fights like a humble guy. I’m so happy for him as I know how happy he is.”
It was Chelsea’s first loss in the league since their opening-day home defeat to Burnley. Chelsea are now six points behind the Manchester clubs.
ANOTHER BIG WIN
United have four 4-0 wins in the league, a huge upgrade on last season when the team’s title challenge faltered because of their profligacy.
It helps having Lukaku in this kind of scoring form, although the striker had a quiet afternoon at Old Trafford by his high standards until he completed the scoring in the 86th minute. He scored for the sixth straight club game.
Juan Mata opened the scoring inside three minutes and Marouane Fellaini netted either side of halftime, with the bushy-haired Belgium midfielder making the most of his extended run in the team owing to Paul Pogba’s hamstring injury.
Harry Kane extended his bewildering run of goals in September by scoring twice in the first 23 minutes at Huddersfield, either side of Ben Davies’ goal.
“It’s difficult to find different words every three days,” Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino said of Kane, who he has lavished with praise in recent weeks — even saying he is “in love” with him.
Moussa Sissoko added a fourth goal in injury time for Tottenham, who are a point ahead of Chelsea in third place.
WINS FOR WEST HAM, STOKE
Late goals secured wins for Stoke and West Ham, and earned a point for Watford.
Peter Crouch was Stoke’s match-winner with an 85th-minute goal in a 2-1 victory over Southampton. Diafra Sakho scored in the 90th minute as West Ham beat Swansea 1-0 at London Stadium.
Richarlison left it even later for Watford, the Brazilian forward equalizing in the fifth minute of injury time in the 2-2 draw at West Bromwich Albion.
Leicester held on to draw at dominant Bournemouth 0-0.