Sergio Aguero is scoring for fun, and even referee Mike Dean got in on the japes. Only Chelsea had nothing to smile about after a 6-0 humiliation at Manchester City.
Scoring a hat trick for a second successive Sunday in the Premier League meant Aguero was owed another match ball.
Not that Dean was going to make it easy for Aguero to collect the ball. Certainly not as easy as Chelsea allowed the Argentine to net a competition-equalling 11th treble.
Spotting Aguero on the field after the final whistle, Dean tucked the bright yellow ball up the back of his black referee’s jersey. Feigning ignorance about the location of the ball, Dean shrugged his shoulders before retrieving it from under his top for a beaming Aguero.
This was a day of misery for Chelsea – the west London club’s heaviest loss in 28 years – but one for both City and Dean to flaunt their flamboyance.
When it came to awarding the penalty that allowed Aguero to complete his hat trick — after spotting Cesar Azpilicueta’s foul on Raheem Sterling — Dean pointed exuberantly at the spot while jumping dramatically to end up in a pose with his legs outstretched in a squat.
Chelsea had nothing to enjoy in this latest embarrassment on the road. As defending champion City reclaimed top spot from Liverpool on goal difference, Chelsea sunk to sixth place, coming on the back of a 2-0 loss at Arsenal and 4-0 collapse at Bournemouth in away games.
With Maurizio Sarri hired after Antonio Conte failed to make the top four last season, the prospect of another season out of the Champions League is likely to imperil the job prospects of another Chelsea manager.
Based on this lopsided encounter, Sarri might not collect early silverware either. Standing between Chelsea and the League Cup is City in the final in two weeks at Wembley Stadium.
English football’s national stadium remains the temporary home of Tottenham where the north London club beat Leicester 3-1 in Sunday’s other game. It strengthened Tottenham’s hold on third place and left Mauricio Pochettino’s side only five points behind City and Liverpool.
City has played a game more than Tottenham and Liverpool, which beat Bournemouth 3-0 on Saturday.