LONDON • Sergio Aguero could be banned for the Manchester derby after he appeared to strike Winston Reid in the throat with such force that the West Ham United defender could not speak after the English Premier League football match.
The Argentinian striker swung his left arm towards Reid as they contested a header in the 76th minute of Manchester City's 3-1 victory on Sunday that maintained Pep Guardiola's 100 per cent win record as City's manager.
Reid fell to the ground clutching his face and Andre Marriner, the referee, stopped play so that the New Zealand centre-back could receive treatment.
Two minutes later, Slaven Bilic, the West Ham manager, substituted Reid, although he claimed that the decision was tactical.
Marriner appeared not to notice the apparent elbow because he did not punish Aguero, which means that the Football Association (FA) could take retrospective disciplinary action against the striker.
GO WITH THE FLOW
If it happens, we accept and adapt. If we lose him, we lose him. We are going to play with 11.
PEP GUARDIOLA, Man City manager, on Sergio Aguero's possible ban for elbowing Winston Reid.
A SERIOUS BLOW
I didn't know what it was about, but I know he couldn't talk (in the dressing room). He said it was because he had got something in the throat.
MARK NOBLE, West Ham midfielder, on Reid's condition after the incident with Aguero.
If Marriner does not mention the incident in his report, the FA can decide to take action against Aguero.
If a disciplinary panel judges that Aguero did mean to strike Reid, they will charge him with violent conduct, although the video evidence does not look conclusive.
The punishment for violent conduct is a three-match ban, which would be bad news for Guardiola because that would mean that Aguero would be ruled out of the derby against Manchester United after this week's international break.
If Aguero does get a three-match ban, he would also miss the home league match against Bournemouth and the away trip to Swansea City in the third round of the League Cup.
"Hopefully nothing happens. If it happens, we accept and adapt," Guardiola said. "If we lose him, we lose him. We are going to play with 11."
Guardiola may be adopting a diplomatic approach publicly, but privately he knows that losing Aguero for the duel against his old foe Jose Mourinho on Sept 10 would be a huge blow.
Aguero has scored six goals in his four starts under Guardiola and the only striker the Catalan added to his squad during the summer transfer window was Gabriel Jesus, who has been loaned back to Palmeiras, his former club in Brazil.
Guardiola's only alternative is Kelechi Iheanacho, the talented yet raw Nigerian 19-year-old who scored 14 goals in his debut season last term.
West Ham captain Mark Noble claimed the apparent elbow was so powerful that it rendered Reid unable to speak after the final whistle.
"I didn't see it to be honest. I didn't know what it was about, but I know he couldn't talk (in the dressing room)," Noble, the midfielder, said. "He said it was because he had got something in the throat."
When asked if he thought Aguero had struck Reid directly on his larynx, Noble said: "I know that he can't talk so that must be the case."
Reid did not speak to reporters after the match.
Two goals from Raheem Sterling in a Man-of-the-Match display from the 21-year-old winger and another from Fernandinho, coming either side of a 58th-minute goal for West Ham via Michail Antonio's header, secured a deserved victory for City. It was their fifth in a row under Pep Guardiola in all competitions - and one that sent them to the top of the Premier League.
Guardiola was thankful that his team managed to survive an onslaught from West Ham in the closing stages after Antonio had put the Hammers back in the game and said there is still room for improvement. "Of course we can do better," he said.
THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN