Friday 22 February 2019

'He has handled many situations this year' - Pep Guardiola praises character of 'incredible' Raheem Sterling

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 15: Raheem Sterling of Manchester City celebrates after scoring his team's third goal during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Everton FC at Etihad Stadium on December 15, 2018 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 15: Raheem Sterling of Manchester City celebrates after scoring his team's third goal during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Everton FC at Etihad Stadium on December 15, 2018 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Andy Hampson

Pep Guardiola praised Raheem Sterling's character after the England forward ended a difficult week with a goalscoring display in the victory over Everton.

Sterling has been at the centre of a big debate about racism in football in recent days after being subjected to alleged discriminatory abuse during City's defeat at Chelsea last weekend.

The issue did not appear to affect the 24-year-old's game as he played 90 minutes of the midweek Champions League win over Hoffenheim and he was again in good touch against the Merseysiders.

With a tough schedule ahead, manager Guardiola did opt to rotate Sterling but he came off the bench to score City's third as they wrapped up a 3-1 Premier League success at the Etihad Stadium.

"I see him so calm," said Guardiola in his post-match press conference.

"My feeling is he has handled many situations in the last year. There are many rumours that people have been talking about, and not nice things about him or his family or, in this case, the colour of his skin.

"And that is why I admire him. I admire that it is not easy for him but he is calm, he is happy playing football and he is beloved.

"He is incredible for all the staff, locker room and his team-mates. It is good. Hopefully we can improve on that and move forward."

Sterling was sent on in immediate response to Dominic Calvert-Lewin pulling a goal back for Everton in the 65th minute after Gabriel Jesus had scored twice for City.

Within a minute Sterling had restored City's two-goal advantage after combining nicely with Fernandinho and confidently heading home the Brazilian's return cross.

It was his 10th City goal of what has been a fine campaign to date.

"When Raheem has no time to think in front of the goalkeeper, it is always a goal," said Guardiola, in response to past criticisms of Sterling's finishing.

"The problem is when he has to think and then he doesn't score a goal.

"The cross was incredible from Fernandinho, it was good finishing, a good headed goal when we are not the tallest team, not the most massive team in the world."

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