Raheem Sterling set Manchester City on course for a comprehensive 3-0 win against Aston Villa as the in-form forward made it 17 goals in 18 appearances for club and country.
Fresh from his hat-trick against Atalanta in Wednesday’s Champions League rout, the PA news agency kept a close eye on the forward at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
Deployed on the left of Pep Guardiola’s front three, he unnerved the Villa defence by roaming around and making runs in behind whenever the chance arose. Frederic Guilbert, the visitors’ right-back, knew he would be in for a tough afternoon from the outset, with Sterling racing beyond the Frenchman and twice getting in crosses within the opening 10 minutes. The England star was not only a thorn in the side with possession, but out of it as well. Sterling defended high up the pitch and pressed with intensity, epitomised by his work in the 55th minute, which eventually led Bjorn Engels to pass straight into his path and a chance Gabriel Jesus should have put away.
Fleet-footed, sharp on the ball and direct, man-of-the-match Sterling was a threat from the outset. Fine movement was not followed up by a clean shot when he first got a sight of goal in the 13th minute, then Engels blocked his next attempt as City pushed for an early opener. The diminutive forward glanced over a header as half-time approached and David Silva should have scored from his superb, unselfish cut-back just before the break. But just 19 seconds into the second half, Sterling scored the goal that changed the match.
While promoted Aston Villa kept City at bay in the opening period, Sterling put the hosts on course for a comprehensive victory in what proved to be dominant second-half display. Ederson’s pumped ball up the park was flicked on by Jesus into the path of Sterling, who scampered between Engels and Guilbert before slotting a left-footed shot through Tom Heaton’s legs from a difficult angle. It was a gut punch Dean Smith’s men could not respond to and Guardiola replaced the 24-year-old with Sergio Aguero in the 76th minute. Sterling’s job was done thanks to another fine performance.
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