Pep Guardiola looks to have revitalised Raheem Sterling, with the Manchester City forward outstanding against Steaua
“If Pep Guardiola can turn him into a class footballer, he truly is a genius!”
Now this fan has earned his right to an opinion, following the Blues since the Fifties, and seeing the good, the bad and the hideously ugly wear the sky blue down the years.
But he may have to hand the Nobel Prize for Genius – if there is such a thing – to the Catalan if Sterling continues to tear up the opposition as he did in the Blues’ 5-0 win atSteaua Bucharest.
Sergio Aguero will claim the headlines after scoring a hat-trick and missing two penalties, but make no bones about it – Sterling was the architect of this win, City’s biggest away triumph in Europe.
The 21-year-old looked like a shattered man in the summer, unfairly copping more than his fair share of flak for England’s Euro woes, after a dismal ending to his season for City.
His relationship with Manuel Pellegrini seemed to deteriorate, and the scoffers were writing him off.
Guardiola rang him at his England team hotel when he was dropped by Roy Hodgson, to give him a lift.
But Pep can’t get all the credit. He made the point that Sterling is a “fighter” – and we are seeing that fight.
He was City’s best player against Sunderland on Saturday, and in the National Stadium in Bucharest he tore up Steaua with some scintillating wing play.
For the second match running his sharp footwork induced a foul from a panicky defender, but this time Sergio Aguero failed to convert it, with Nolito hitting the bar from the rebound.
Undeterred, Sterling persisted, and after dispossessing Muniru Sulley, and then turning the defender inside out, he squared his pass for David Silva to lash in the opening goal.
With City purring forward, their false full backs in danger of giving the Steaua midfield a split personality, more goal looked inevitable.
Pablo Zabaleta and Aleks Kolarov might have needed an introduction in this game after six years on opposite flanks, but in this new role, it was Zabaleta storming through the middle and slipping a pass to left back Kolarov, who was fouled – and again Aguero was wasteful from the spot kick.
Bedraggled Steaua were all over the place as Sterling himself and Kolarov both hit the bar.
And then Sterling provided a moment of redemption for Aguero, a cushioned lay-off being stroked beautifully into the far corner by Kun, whose confidence may have been affected by his own nightmare at the Copa America.
City turned up the style factor in th second half and when Kevin De Bruyne stroked a pass of exquisite quality, Nolito had time to dance around the keeper and tuck away his first City goal.
Nolito then turned provider, playing a clever oe-two with Aguero who, his confidence on its way back, tucked away his second goal of the game.