Perfect Pep comes out tops

Manchester City's Kelechi Iheanacho taking the ball past Stoke City goalkeeper Shay Given in the build-up to their third goal scored by Nolito. City won the English Premier League match 4-1 with Sergio Aguero and Nolito scoring a brace each, taking t
Manchester City's Kelechi Iheanacho taking the ball past Stoke City goalkeeper Shay Given in the build-up to their third goal scored by Nolito. City won the English Premier League match 4-1 with Sergio Aguero and Nolito scoring a brace each, taking the team to six points from two games.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Guardiola hails his players' quality as victory consolidates his winning start as City manager

ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE

Stoke City 1

Manchester City 4

LONDON • Pep Guardiola extended his 100 per cent start as Manchester City manager as Sergio Aguero's brace and a late double from Nolito secured an impressive 4-1 Premier League win at Stoke City yesterday.

City's away form last season undermined their efforts to regain the Premier League title with just four wins from Manuel Pellegrini's last 16 away league games in charge.

But they are expected to do much better on their travels in the Guardiola era and this emphatic result suggests the Spaniard will adapt successfully to English football.

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City had won on just one of their eight Premier League trips to Stoke and, allied to the usual buffeting by the wind which regularly swirls around the Britannia Stadium, now known as the bet365 Stadium, that could have made this a tricky test.

Stoke manager Mark Hughes also likes nothing better than to put one over his former club but City avoided a potential hazard in style.

"In the first half, we played good. We arrived many times in the box with one against one," Guardiola said. "We created a lot of counter-attacks in the second half but the last pass was not good. We have to try and finish the action."

Jesus Navas earned his first start of the season in place of Nolito, but Guardiola otherwise stuck with the side that had demolished Steaua Bucharest 5-0 in midweek to all but secure their place in the group stage of the Champions League ahead of Wednesday's return leg.

Aguero has hit the ground running this season and added to his tally to give City a 26th-minute lead from the penalty spot.

The Argentinian had twice missed from the spot in Romania but added to his opening-day conversion in the Premier League by confidently driving the ball beyond 40-year-old 'keeper Shay Given.

Ten minutes before the break, Given was beaten again as City went 2-0 up. Aguero once again showed his outstanding predatory instincts to score from a header.

But the home side had to wait only until three minutes into the second half to pull one back, with Bojan Krkic converting a penalty.

City weathered a spell of Stoke pressure without wilting and, with four minutes to go, they guaranteed all three points thanks to a first Premier League goal from Nolito.

Kelechi Iheanacho, fresh from signing a new long-term contract, rounded Given and picked out Nolito for an easy tap-in.

City made the result even more emphatic in stoppage time when Nolito slotted home his second.

"The penalties were key, especially the one that went against us in the first half when we were in the match," said Hughes.

"Our penalty probably would not have been given this time last year, but we got back into the game until that third goal took it away from us.

"City are clearly a top team this year, but we didn't get the key details right and it went against us."

Guardiola praised his players: "I am a lucky guy because the quality of the players here is amazing.

"They run and fight for each other, and today we played in one of the toughest places of the season.

"Our back four was very good but everyone was excellent."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 21, 2016, with the headline 'Perfect Pep comes out tops'. Print Edition | Subscribe