Raheem Sterling scored a hat-trick as Manchester City produced a rampant display to overcome Atalanta 5-1 in the Champions League on Tuesday at the Etihad Stadium.
The away side started the brighter of the two and should have taken the lead after ten minutes, but Timothy Castagne couldn’t keep his header down. However, Pep Guardiola’s men grew into the contest, with Sergio Aguero coming close before blazing a shot over moments later.
Midway through the first half, Josip Ilicic broke forward at pace and was adjudged to have been chopped down by Fernandinho inside the box, giving the Italians the chance to take the lead from the spot. Ruslan Malinovskiy was the man to step up and cooly slot home past Ederson.
Their lead only lasted seven minutes, however, as Aguero poked home from a Sterling cross. The Citizens continued to assert their dominance and moved into the lead four minutes later as City’s Argentinian forward tucked home a penalty, after Sterling was bundled to the floor.
The hosts picked up where they left off after the break, with Sterling adding a third from a Phil Foden pass after 58 minutes. From then, it was one-way traffic for Guardiola’s men, with Sterling making it four, before sealing his hat-trick within 11 minutes to make it 5-1. Foden saw red for two yellow cards late on, but the Sky Blues maintained their control and earned a comfortable win to extend their lead at the top of Group C.
Here’s the breakdown of the game.
Key Talking Point
Manchester City came into the game with a perfect 100% record, having won their first two games without conceding a goal. This, combined with Atalanta’s early results in the Champions League this term, led people to thinking this match was a foregone conclusion. However, the early stages indicated that the Italian side could cause real problems.
The away side were the highest scoring team in Serie A last season and are leading the way once again this term, and they capitalised on their bright start by taking the lead from the spot. The Citizens looked shaky at the back in the early stages and the frailties were exposed as Rodri and Fernandinho were constantly found out of position, with the latter clumsily chopping down Ilicic for the penalty. The former was also forced off with what appeared to be a hamstring injury, adding to Guardiola’s injury woes.
However, City were able to overcome their slow start and grew in confidence throughout the game, eventually reaching their free-flowing and scintillating best. It was a ruthless display that saw them, ultimately, ease past their opponents. Sterling, Aguero and Riyad Mahrez were always looking to assert their authority on the game and did so with consummate ease, guiding City to their third straight win in the Champions League.
Despite the resounding win, it wasn’t flawless as the defence continued to look vulnerable, while Foden also saw red late on.
Starting XI: Ederson (7); Walker (6), Rodri (4), Fernandinho (4), Mendy (6); Gundogan (6), Foden (7), De Bruyne (7); Mahrez (6), Sterling (10*), Aguero (9)
Substitutes: Stones (6), Otamendi (5), Cancelo (5)
STAR PLAYER – Although Sergio Aguero scored twice and Phil Foden hardly put a foot wrong (before his sending off), it is Raheem Sterling who was the standout player for City.
The Englishman appears to be improving with every passing week and that’s an astonishing thought considering the fact that he’s already among the best in the world.
Sterling played a delightful chip to David Silva in the recent win over Crystal Palace and he produced something similar in this match. With his side behind and looking for a route back into the game, he picked up the ball and floated an inch-perfect ball into Aguero, who was able to poke home.
The winger was constantly looking to make things happen and it was his driving run that earned his side the penalty moments later. From then, he went on to grab a hat-trick within 11 minutes and now has 16 goals and nine assists in 17 games for club and country, emphasising his importance to City.
Starting XI: Gollini (5); Toloi (3), Djimsiti (4), Masiello (4); Castagne (5), Freuler (6), De Roon (4), Gosens (7*); Gomez (4), Malinovskyi; Ilicic (4)
Substitutes: Muriel (6), Pasalic (5), Hateboer (5)
Manchester City return to Premier League action on Saturday as they welcome Aston Villa to the Etihad, before hosting Southampton in the Carabao Cup.
Atalanta, meanwhile, also return to league action on the weekend, as they host Udinese on Sunday, before travelling to face Napoli.