Sterling turns poacher with hat-trick to inspire City's five-star demolition of Cherries
Manchester City 5-1 Bournemouth
This was a day when Raheem Sterling offered a sweet answer to those who believe his finishing is powder-puff. By the break the Manchester City forward had returned three goals to become the 11th player under 21 to net a hat-trick in the Premier League era.
Sterling could and should have had more. But with City's big three of David Silva, Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany missing, Sterling showed precisely why he was purchased and the depth of quality the Sky Blues possess.
With Silva and Aguero already out, Kompany joined them as an absentee from the XI.
City required only 11 minutes to suggest the gilded trio would not be missed. By then they were 2-0 ahead, Sterling had his third for the club and Wilfried Bony a first of the campaign.
Before and immediately after the strike Sterling appeared out of sorts. The 20-year-old would beat a player then pass loosely, or his touch was clumsy when the ball arrived. There could be no complaints regarding his goal-poaching instincts, though.
Fernandinho swept a diagonal along a left-to-right plane on to Pablo Zabaleta's head. He nodded the ball back into the danger area where Bony stuck a foot in and Sterling, hanging near Adam Federici's right post, turned in the finish.
Bournemouth, who had motored into Manchester winless since September 19, were trying to steady themselves when Pellegrini's team doubled the lead.
This was an untidy affair for Eddie Howe's side. Bacary Sagna, operating at left-back due to Aleksandar Kolarov's hamstring injury, pinged a cross into the area from his flank. Federici, fatally, spilt this and Bony was ruthless.
Was this to be the proverbial duck shoot for City? The answer, on the evidence thus far, seemed firmly in the affirmative. But, then, the defensive frailties that are often the corollary of Kompany's absence cost the home team. Glenn Murray was the lone forward in Howe's 4-5-1. He had seen next to nothing of the ball. Yet when possession came to him he ran at Eliaquim Mangala, the defender stood too far from the No 27, and he fired a 25-yard shot beyond Joe Hart.
That was 2-1 and only 22 minutes had gone. The game's fourth goal arrived moments before the half-hour. This time all from Sterling was supreme.
Kevin De Bruyne began the move with a neat pass into the England man, who proceeded to skate past Steve Cook and Sylvain Distin, before shooting beyond Federici.
Going forward City were smooth operators; when the Cherries took the contest to them they appeared disjointed. Nicolas Otamendi offered an illustration when upending Charlie Daniels needlessly. The Argentinian was booked and Matt Ritchie could swing a free-kick at the home rearguard that dropped into the area and was awkward to repel.
Sterling's first-half parade was about to be completed. The referee, Mike Dean, was in look-at-his-watch territory as half-time approached when Hart hoofed a ball downfield.
As Federici hesitated Navas took the ball to the left and, after creating space, took aim. The rebound came off Federici to Sterling, who had chased the play. With one of those feints defenders hate, he bought a fraction of time and banged the ball home for the hat-trick.
Bony later made it 5-1 to follow the 6-1 here against Newcastle United. It meant City confirmed their status as leaders and Sterling could depart smiling broadly.
Sunday Indo Sport