Manchester City's Jeremy Doku, centre, celebrates after scoring his side's...

Manchester City's Jeremy Doku, centre, celebrates after scoring his side's fourth goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Luton Town at Etihad stadium in Manchester, England, Saturday, April 13, 2024. Credit: AP/Rui Vieira

LONDON — With some of Manchester City's regular starters rested, Jeremy Doku and Mateo Kovacic made sure the defending champion didn't miss a beat in the English Premier League title race.

Kovacic and Doku scored in the second half as Man City pulled away for a comfortable 5-1 win over relegation-threatened Luton on Saturday despite manager Pep Guardiola perhaps having one eye on Wednesday's game against Real Madrid.

Gaurdiola rested a handful of players — including key midfielder Rodri — but saw the replacements fill in convincingly. Kovacic made it 2-0 in the 51st with a thunderous strike from the edge of the area, while Doku earned the penalty that led to the third goal, scored the fourth himself and assisted on the fifth.

“You cannot play the same people (in every game), it is impossible," Guardiola said. “Everyone has permission to score and it’s so important.”

The win lifted City into first place, two points ahead of title rivals Arsenal and Liverpool, who both play on Sunday.

It was also a perfect preparation for Madrid's visit for the second leg of their Champions League quarterfinal, after a 3-3 draw in Spain this week. Kevin de Bruyne missed that game with an illness but was back in the starting lineup against Luton, as was goalkeeper Ederson.

And with the three-way title race in the league looking set to go down to the wire, Guardiola knows this was just one of many must-win games the team will face before the end of the season.

Manchester City's Erling Haaland applauds fans at the end of...

Manchester City's Erling Haaland applauds fans at the end of the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Luton Town at Etihad stadium in Manchester, England, Saturday, April 13, 2024. Credit: AP/Rui Vieira

“Try and extend (the title race) one more week, one more week, one more week,” Guardiola said. “Today we will sleep top of the league, see tomorrow, and we know what we have to do.”

NEWCASTLE ROUTS SPURS

For the second year in a row, Newcastle handed Tottenham quite the drubbing at St. James' Park.

After beating Spurs 6-1 at home last April, Newcastle routed Ange Postecoglou's team 4-0 to damage the visitors' hopes of a top-four finish. Just like last year, Alexander Isak netted two of the goals to take his season tally to 17 in the league and 21 overall this season.

Manchester City players celebrate their victory at the English Premier...

Manchester City players celebrate their victory at the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Luton Town at Etihad stadium in Manchester, England, Saturday, April 13, 2024. Credit: AP/Rui Vieira

Anthony Gordon made it 2-0 just 95 seconds after Isak opened the scoring, and added two assists.

“Playing football is really fun at the moment, especially when we have days like this,” Isak said.

It wasn't a fun day for Tottenham defender Micky van de Ven, though. The center back was partially at fault for the first two goals as he slipped both times and let Isak and Gordon go past him inside the area.

The big loss meant Tottenham dropped below Aston Villa into fifth, behind on goal difference.

Newcastle was sixth, 10 points behind Villa and Tottenham.

PENALTY DECISIONS HELP UNITED

Two penalty decisions helped Manchester United earn a 2-2 draw at Bournemouth, although any chance of qualifying for the Champions League seems to be quickly slipping away.

Tottenham's loss gave United a chance to cut the gap but Erik ten Hag’s team was 10 points behind fourth place with six games to go, after four league matches without a win.

“We know when you come into the final stage of the season, that is not enough," Ten Hag said. "But the truth is, today we didn’t deserve more.”

Indeed, this was another performance that suggested this United was still far, far away from challenging Europe's elite.

Only a soft penalty in the 65th minute helped Bruno Fernandes equalize with his second goal of the game. Referee Tony Harrington pointed to the spot when a deflected shot hit the arm of Adam Smith in the area.

Harrington then awarded Bournemouth an injury-time penalty when Ryan Christie collided with United defender Willy Kambwala as he was running into the box, but it was overturned after VAR ruled the foul happened just outside the area.

RELEGATION BATTLE TIGHTENS

The relegation battle tightened as Nottingham Forest and Burnley couldn't take full advantage of Luton's loss, with both settling for a draw.

Forest drew with Wolves 2-2 despite Morgan Gibbs-White scoring against his former club after being set up by a corner from U.S. international Gio Reyna, who made his first start for the club. Matheus Cunha scored twice for Wolves, including a 62nd-minute equalizer.

A mistake by goalkeeper Aro Muric cost Burnley in a 1-1 draw with Brighton. Josh Brownhill capitalized on a poor back pass by Carlos Baleba in the 74th minute to give Burnley the lead but Muric then let a routine pass from Sander Berge slip in under his foot.

That left Burnley still six points from safety in 19th place while Forest was 17th, one point above Luton.

Last-placed Sheffield United inched ever closer to relegation after losing 2-0 to Brentford, which ended a nine-game winless skid.

Brentford sat seven points above Luton with five games remaining.

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