EPL

Sterling scores twice as Manchester City outclass West Ham in pre-season

By Sports Desk July 17, 2019

Raheem Sterling struck a brace and Rodri made his debut as Manchester City came from behind to comfortably beat West Ham 4-1 in a pre-season friendly in China.

Mark Noble converted a 26th-minute penalty but David Silva and Lukas Nmecha, who also scored from the spot, combined to overturn City's deficit by the break.

England star Sterling took charge from there, scoring twice after his half-time introduction to give Pep Guardiola a winning start to the tour of Asia.

Club-record signing Rodri lasted almost 70 minutes on his first appearance since joining from Atletico Madrid for a reported £62.8m.

Left-back Angelino, brought back to Manchester after a season at Eredivisie side PSV, also started and it was his blatant handball that gifted Hammers captain Noble the opener.

Spanish midfielder Silva quickly equalised following a superb pass from teenage compatriot Adrian Bernabe and young forward Nmecha stroked the Premier League champions ahead after bring tripped by Angelo Ogbonna.

Two composed finishes from Sterling in the space of 13 second-half minutes completed the scoring and booked City's place alongside Wolves, 4-0 victors over Newcastle United, in Saturday's final of the Premier League Asia Trophy.

West Ham meet Newcastle in the tournament's third-place play-off before returning home to face Fulham, for which new signing Sebastian Haller should be available.

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    Few, if any, Manchester City players will receive a bigger roar of approval than Raheem Sterling when the teams are read out before kick-off at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

    The England forward will aim to inspire victory in the Manchester derby against United for his adoring public, before basking in its glow the following day – his 25th birthday.

    Whatever the result, Sterling's quarter-century also marks the one-year anniversary of bleak but life-altering day.

    "The way they were looking at me, I had to see where all this anger was coming from," he told the New York Times, remembering how he observed a small number of irate fans in the Matthew Harding Stand at Stamford Bridge, while retrieving the ball for a corner during a Premier League match City would lose 2-0 to Chelsea.

    "I was listening in to hear what they were saying… 'Nah, that can't be what I heard'."

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    This July, Chelsea also reached that conclusion as they banned one supporter for life and handed out sanctions from between one to two years for incidents at the same Premier League match. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided not to initiate criminal prosecutions.

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    "Regarding what was said at the Chelsea game, as you can see by my reaction, I just had to laugh because I don't expect no better," he wrote in an Instagram post the day after the game, in what remains a damning assessment of the atmospheres and sickening attitudes too often allowed to fester in football stadia – supposedly places of celebration and work for young athletes.

    But Sterling was keen to turn the focus outwards, taking the opportunity to highlight the contrasting tones with which the Daily Mail reported on two of his young team-mates Phil Foden and Tosin Adarabioyo – one white, one black – buying houses for their mothers.

    "This young black kid is looked at in a bad light, which helps fuel racism an aggressive behaviour," Sterling posted, before imploring news outlets to "have a second thought about fair publicity"

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    That treble feeling

    A brace in May's FA Cup final saw him conclude last season with 25 club goals in all competitions as City claimed an unprecedented domestic treble – the first part of which, the EFL Cup, came as Sterling steered the decisive kick in a penalty shoot-out against Chelsea into the top corner.

    There have been hat-tricks in the Champions League and for England, who he captained in June's Nations League Finals semi-final versus the Netherlands. Now a reliable goalscorer for his country, he netted eight in qualification for Euro 2020.

    The industry he urged to take a look at itself honoured Sterling, the 2018-19 Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year. The BBC's Sports Personality of the Year gong could be added to his collection this month.

    "It's all about mentality. Mentality, maturity and growing up," Sterling said ahead of the showdown with United.

    "I'm obsessed with football, obsessed with scoring goals, obsessed with recovering quicker and obsessed with improving myself."

    Spiralling numbers show how fruitful that obsession has been, while Sterling's maturity – a scuffle with Joe Gomez on international duty aside – is frequently evident.

    Every time he intervenes on issues of racism, be it responding to he and England team-mates receiving abuse in Montenegro and Bulgaria, defending Italy striker Moise Kean or supporting Newport County Under-14 goalkeeper Ethan Ross, Sterling strikes at the heart of the issue and is a force for good.

    He covered the funeral costs of Crystal Palace youth player Damary Dawkins, who tragically lost his battle with leukaemia, having dedicated an England goal against the Czech Republic to the 13-year-old.

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    Other examples of Sterling's community mindedness could be found when he arranged tickets to City's FA Cup semi-final against Brighton and Hove Albion for 550 pupils from his old school, while last month he urged those able to among his 2.2million Twitter follows to register to vote in the upcoming UK general election.

    "He's a young, black role model for so many young people. His status will go far and beyond football, that's for sure," said Townsend, who feels Sterling can align with some of British football's true pioneers and icons.

    "You will have young people not just wanting to be Raheem Sterling the footballer, but who will want to be Raheem Sterling the human being.

    "I take that as the kind of impact John Barnes had, when he was almost fighting racism by himself. Or Cyrille Regis, Laurie Cunningham and Brendon Batson when they were at West Brom.

    "With those forefathers, the generation before him, he will be recognised as someone who's had a massive influence and impact.

    "That's probably the most powerful legacy of that post a year ago. He will have empowered many people to stand up for themselves, stand up for their rights and stand up for who they are as human beings."

    Townsend is at pains to point out Sterling cannot be the "be-all and end-all" in the fight against racism, and that burden must never be placed upon any single person.

    But, as Manchester United look to repel the City star's on-field obsession, it is to his immense credit he has managed to shed so much light a year on from that dark day.

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