Tuesday 27 September 2016

Guardiola salutes rejuvenated Sterling after forward's double sinks Hammers

Published 28/08/2016 | 21:16

Pep Guardiola was happy with the performance against West Ham
Pep Guardiola was happy with the performance against West Ham

Pep Guardiola hailed Raheem Sterling's spirit after the rejuvenated forward's two goals helped Manchester City to a 3-1 win over West Ham.

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The England international endured a difficult first season at City after his acrimonious £44million move from Liverpool and then failed to impress at Euro 2016.

But the 21-year-old appears to be revelling in life under Guardiola at the Etihad Stadium and his latest superb performance helped City maintain their 100 per cent record in the Premier League.

There was a downside for City as Sergio Aguero appeared to catch Winston Reid with his elbow - an incident that could attract disciplinary action - but Sterling's efforts were eye-catching.

Asked what he had done for Sterling, Guardiola said: "Me? Nothing. I have tried to do the best for all the players, not just Raz.

"Raz has scored two goals - that was good - but the games before this were more brilliant than today. In the first half he scored a goal but didn't win too many defensive duels, the second half was better.

"But of course we are so pleased, so pleased about his spirit. He can play right, left, he is so dynamic, so aggressive with the ball and without the ball. I am so happy he is playing good."

City were dominant in the first half, with early goals from Sterling and Fernandinho putting them into a commanding interval lead. Michail Antonio, who received an England call-up later in the day, made life difficult by pulling one back just before the hour, but Sterling's late second sealed a deserved win.

The victory took City to nine points alongside rivals Manchester United, whom they will face in an eagerly-anticipated derby at Old Trafford after the upcoming international break.

Guardiola said: "We created many chances, so we deserved to win clearly with more goals. The performance was good.

"I didn't see Manchester United playing, so now I have 10 days to see United. We will have to make an amazing performance to win at Old Trafford, but I can imagine the atmosphere. I am looking forward to that experience."

Regarding the Aguero incident, in which the Argentinian seemed to elbow Reid in the neck, Guardiola claimed he did not see it.

He had been made aware of it, however, and accepted retrospective action and a ban could follow.

He said: "I didn't see so I cannot comment. Hopefully nothing happens. If it happens, we accept and adapt and we will try our best."

West Ham midfielder Mark Noble suggested Reid's speech had been affected by the blow.

He said: "I didn't see it. I don't know what it was about really, but I know he can't really talk in there (dressing room). He said he got something to the throat."

Hammers boss Slaven Bilic played down the matter and said that Reid's substitution had nothing to do with the incident.

Bilic said: "I didn't see it at all. I reacted because we wanted to make a sub. We wanted to change the shape. I think he is okay. He is not injured."

Bilic accepted his side were largely outplayed.

He said: "You can't say City didn't deserve to win, but it was a game of two halves. In the first half it was not only they were two up very early - even before they scored, they have two corners and one semi-chance, so they were much better than us.

"At half-time I didn't ask my team to turn the game around, just to show their qualities and enthusiasm and we did that. We were a different West Ham. We put them under pressure and forced them to make some changes."

The final 15 minutes saw City give Samir Nasri, whose future has been the subject of speculation, his first action of the season.

With the transfer deadline on Wednesday, Guardiola said the Frenchman's future was in his own hands.

Guardiola said: "It depends on the player, but he can stay. Samir arrived overweight, but after one week, 10 days, it was fantastic how he trained, how he competed. His quality is on another level, but it depends on him."

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