Hat-trick hero Sterling set to improve haul

Manchester City's Raheem Sterling celebrating his hat-trick with Jesus Navas. The 5-1 win kept the team on top of the league.
Manchester City's Raheem Sterling celebrating his hat-trick with Jesus Navas. The 5-1 win kept the team on top of the league. PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES

LONDON • Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini believes that Raheem Sterling can be more prolific for his new employers than he was for former club Liverpool.

Sterling scored the first hat-trick of his senior career as City beat Bournemouth 5-1 on Saturday to stay top of the Premier League, and Pellegrini praised the England forward - who could cost City up to £49 million (S$105 million) - for his contribution.

Moved into a central role in the absence of the injured Sergio Aguero, Sterling took his goal tally for City in all competitions to five and Pellegrini thinks he can go well beyond the 11 goals he mustered for Liverpool last season.

"I think it was important for Raheem to score three goals," said the Chilean, whose side visit third-placed Manchester United in the local derby this weekend.

"He's a very young player and I'm sure he will continue improving in the future. I don't think he's a striker in the way that Kun (Aguero) or (Wilfried) Bony is. But he's a player who must improve his finishing.

"I said when he arrived here that he must improve. I'm sure that this season he will score more goals than in previous seasons when he played for Liverpool."

Pellegrini substituted Sterling after a poor individual first-half performance during City's 6-1 thrashing of Newcastle two weeks ago, but he said the move had not left the 20-year-old disheartened.

"He didn't lose confidence after the Newcastle game because I spoke to him as I took him off," the manager said. "He didn't play well. But all the players can have a bad day. But I think this game was important for him, and for the team to change his position.

"Near Bony, he can create more space, because Bony supports very well with the ball.

"We put Kevin de Bruyne in Raheem's position and that was good and allowed him to score more goals."

City took advantage of a Bournemouth side who were left in defensive disarray after goalkeeper Artur Boruc had to pull out with a thigh injury 20 minutes before kick-off.

Stand-in Adam Federici was at fault for two of City's goals, dropping a simple cross at the feet of Bony, who pounced to score the first goal of a double.

Bony completed his brace in the 89th minute and indicated that he is back on top after struggling for form and fitness since moving to the club in January.

"I feel I have turned the corner," said the Ivorian, who revealed that he contracted malaria during the close season. "I have had a lot of injuries and been sick, and feel that is all away from me now."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2015, with the headline 'Hat-trick hero Sterling set to improve haul'. Print Edition | Subscribe