Sports

Sterling inspires Manchester City to victory over Aston Villa

Pep Guardiola was relieved that Manchester City had found their rhythm ahead of prematurely closing Premier League leaders Liverpool's three-point gap as Rahim Sterling won 3–0 over Aston Villa on Saturday.

Tom's opening period survived as Guardiola's side scored second-half goals from Sterling, David Silva and Ilkay Gundogan.

City's second consecutive league win pushed them to second place above Leicester and put pressure on Liverpool to beat Tenham in a clash at Anfield on Sunday.

Fernandinho was dismissed after securing a second booking when the City star tugged on Keenan Davis in the 87th minute.

Guardiola admitted the champions were initially below their best, but were happy with the way they controlled after the interval.

“Aston Villa played very well in the first half and we did not play so well. Guardiola said, "They are newly-introduced and play with real emotion, attacking channels well." "But the second half, I don't know if we played well because we scored early or it was because we played differently, but we won. It was a special second, we were in another level."

City were upset by the Wolves in their last league fixer at the Etihad Stadium, but Guardiola had never lost back-to-back home league games as a manager and Sterling was instrumental in ensuring that the impressive record was not wasted .

Sterling's latest virtuoso performance came days after Atalanta's demolition of the City Champions League, the second hat-trick of the campaign.

The England winger has made a convincing case of being regarded as de facto superstars over the last 18 months and Villa had no answer for his intelligent movement, sublime skills and predator refinement.

City have scored 32 league goals this season, 11 more than Liverpool, and their shelling was clear to watch as they looked on the bench with their record scorer Sergio Aguero.

Gabriel Jesus started the Premier League for the first time since December, but gave City a chance to advance when he pulled his close-range shot from Sterling's pass.

No fewer than 11 City Stars have suffered injuries this season, with Olekandra Zinchenko and Rodry sidelined for several weeks.

Route one city

Guardiola admitted that he was "a little worried" about how Citi would cope, yet anything is possible with Sterling by his side.

Sterling appealed for Penal when his shot cut off Björn Engels' arm, then stretched a header just wide.

John Stones gifted possession to Villa and Douglas Luiz after the City keeper became entangled with Ederson, who avoided a fine in the melee.

Despite the lack of rhythm in the first half, City should have been ahead at the break when Sterling defeated Silva, only for the Spanish midfielder to shoot the far-wide inches.

Typically devoted strongly to Guardiola's passing principles, City eventually broke Villa's stubborn resistance with a goal straight from the route to a handbook.

A huge punt forward by Ederson flowed unmarked Sterling en route to Jesus, who took a touch before shooting under Tom Hayton for his 13th goal in 14 appearances in all competitions of the post.

City should have doubled their lead when Engels gave the ball to Sterling and took out Jesus, but the Brazilian shot was brilliantly deflected off the line by Tyron Mings.

It did not matter as Guardiola's side were in the groove and they hit Villa with two goals in five minutes.

In the 65th minute, Kevin De Bruyne made a cross in which Silva lit up the net despite a long review of VAR, then checked against Sterling.

After failing to clear Villa, Gundogan put the result beyond doubt in the 70th minute with a clinical finish.