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April 23, 2016

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Manchester City easily defeated Stoke 4-0 in the English Premier League on Saturday to move five points clear of rival Manchester United in the fight for a Champions League spot.

The hosts struck twice in each half with Fernando grabbing the opener, followed by Sergio Aguero converting a penalty just before halftime.

Kelechi Iheanacho added two more after the interval.

City moved to third and is provisionally one point ahead of fourth-place Arsenal, which visits Sunderland on Sunday.

City hosts Real Madrid in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals on Tuesday and Manuel Pellegrini's selection clearly had this in mind, with Kevin De Bruyne on the bench and Vincent Kompany missing from the squad altogether.

Stoke was dealt a major blow before kick-off when it was confirmed Ibrahim Afellay suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury in training on Friday, potentially ruling him out until 2017.=

City almost scored after six minutes when Aguero set up Iheanacho, making his fourth Premier League start, and the youngster curled a shot just wide.

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At the other end, Glenn Whelan tested Joe Hart with an audacious free kick.

Ironically, the visitors were having their best spell of the match when City opened the scoring in the 35th minute.

The Potters were weak at defending crosses against Liverpool last weekend and that was the case again as Fernando nipped ahead of Geoff Cameron at the near post and flicked his header into the far corner.

Further City pressure was rewarded when Ryan Shawcross hauled down Iheanacho after he had played a one-two with Yaya Toure.

Aguero's 43rd-minute penalty gave Shay Given no chance — in the week the goalkeeper turned 40 — finding the bottom corner for his 28th goal of the season.

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Given went off at the interval with Jakob Haugaard, 17 years the Irishman's junior, sent on for the second half.

Mato Joselu should have scored with a shot from 10 yards (meters) for Stoke but sent it over the bar before Mame Biram Diouf headed just wide.

As in the first half, a period of Stoke pressure ended with a City goal.

Pablo Zabaleta, making his 300th City appearance, got away down the right and cut the ball back for Iheanacho to tap home in the 64th.

The teenager was enjoying himself and 10 minutes later he ran onto substitute Wilfried Bony's pass and rounded Haugaard before slotting home.

Midtable Stoke conceded four goals for a third successive match and look set to finish a positive season on a low note.

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