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Manchester City 5-1 Atalanta: Raheem Sterling steals the show with breathtaking 11-MINUTE HAT-TRICK

Manchester City 5-1 Atalanta: Raheem Sterling steals the show once again with breathtaking 11-MINUTE HAT-TRICK and two assists as City storm to Champions League victory… but Phil Foden is sent-off on rare start for the champions

  • The Serie A side took a shock lead after Ruslan Malinovskiy sent Ederson the wrong way from the penalty spot
  • Two goals in four minutes from Sergio Aguero, first a tap-in and then a penalty, sent City in ahead at the break 
  • Raheem Sterling turned on the style in the second-half with three goals in 11 minutes to seal the three points
  • It wasn’t a perfect night for City though with Rodri sustaining an injury and Phil Foden sent off late on  

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Raheem Sterling is just on another planet these days, isn’t he? The numbers frighten to the point that he can lay claim to being labelled the best winger in Europe right now. Of that there is absolutely no doubt.

So this hat-trick, another for the collection, makes it 37 Manchester City goals since the start of last season. Laying on twice for Sergio Aguero takes his assist tally in that time to 22, as well.

Atalanta were bludgeoned by Sterling, all three goals coming in 11 blistering second-half minutes and more evidence that he is at the peak of his powers earlier than expected.

Raheem Sterling was on blistering form at the Etihad Stadium with a stunning three goals in 11 second-half minutes 

The England international also set up Sergio Aguero's two first-half goals in a simply world-class Champions League display

The England international also set up Sergio Aguero’s two first-half goals in a simply world-class Champions League display

Sterling went home with the match ball and could've scored a fourth as he put City on the cusp of qualifying for the next stage

Sterling went home with the match ball and could’ve scored a fourth as he put City on the cusp of qualifying for the next stage

Sergio Aguero scores from the penalty spot in the 38th minute after Raheem Sterling was fouled by defender Andrea Masiello

Sergio Aguero scores from the penalty spot in the 38th minute after Raheem Sterling was fouled by defender Andrea Masiello

MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS 

MANCHESTER CITY (4-3-3): Ederson 7; Walker 6, Fernandinho 6, Rodri 6 (Stones 41, 6), Mendy 6 (Cancelo 71, 6); De Bruyne 8.5 (Otamendi 68, 6), Gundogan 7.5, Foden 8.5; Mahrez 7, Aguero 8.5, Sterling 9.5

Subs not used: Bravo, Jesus, B Silva, D Silva

Manager: Pep Guardiola 7

ATALANTA (3-4-1-2): Gollini 5; Toloi 5, Djimsiti 5, Masiello 5 (Pasalic 46, 6); Castagne 6, De Roon 6, Freuler 6, Gosens 6; Malinovskyi 7; Ilicic 7 (Hateboer 72, 6), Gomez 6.5 (Muriel 46, 6)

Subs not used: Sportiello, Arana, Ibanez, Barrow

Manager: Gian Piero Gasperini 6

Referee: Orel Grinfeld 6

Pep Guardiola’s team selections tell us as much. For a team that is rotated heavily, Sterling barely ever watches from the bench. Even with all their firepower, they just cannot do without him.

Still only 24, he is already a superstar, one of the finest forwards in world football. Less than a handful of wingers boast a better minutes-per-goal record than him and it is for that reason Sterling should genuinely be involved prominently in the Ballon d’Or discussion.

Sterling laughed off comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi earlier this week and while he is right to distance himself from that, he is definitely among the chasing pack.

All three goals were scored assertively and just the tonic after Guardiola claimed his team had not been clinical enough of late. It might have been four, but for a miss one-on-one towards the end. We can forgive him that.

An icon off the pitch, a leader on it. It is not hard to see why so many brands are falling over themselves to offer him new deals and want his name associated with them.

‘All the credit is for him,’ Guardiola said, keen for praise to be diverted away from himself. ‘Raheem is perfect. His physicality is amazing. The day after the game he can play another one. Defensively he helps us a lot too. An extraordinary player. He has that desire to get better.’

Only catastrophe would prevent City progressing through to the Champions League knockout stages for a seventh consecutive year. In truth, Group C was always there for the taking. Atalanta gave them a brief scare after going ahead after 28 minutes, Ruslan Malinovskyi stroking home a penalty after Josip Ilicic went over Fernandinho’s trailing leg. After that it was one-way traffic.

Phil Foden (second, right) was sent-off late on by referee Orel Grinfeld after two cynical fouls resulting in yellow cards

Phil Foden (second, right) was sent-off late on by referee Orel Grinfeld after two cynical fouls resulting in yellow cards 

The Argentinean striker celebrates scoring his, and City's, second goal of the evening at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday

The Argentinean striker celebrates scoring his, and City’s, second goal of the evening at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday 

The 31-year-old was quickest to Sterling's cross as he nipped in ahead of the Atalanta goalkeeper to equalise for City

The 31-year-old was quickest to Sterling’s cross as he nipped in ahead of the Atalanta goalkeeper to equalise for City 

In the 28th minute, Atalanta number 18 Ruslan Malinovskiy sent Ederson the wrong way to give the visitors a shock lead

In the 28th minute, Atalanta number 18 Ruslan Malinovskiy sent Ederson the wrong way to give the visitors a shock lead 

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