LONDON • Manchester City have reacted with anger and shock to Arsene Wenger's claim that Raheem Sterling dived to win a penalty on Sunday, especially as the manager's admiration for the forward led him to move for the player last summer.
The Arsenal manager accused Sterling of deceiving the referee Michael Oliver into awarding City a penalty, which Sergio Aguero converted to put the hosts 2-0 up. City went on to record a 3-1 victory at the Etihad Stadium.
Wenger claimed that the result could have been different had Oliver not awarded the spot kick.
"He dives very well," the Frenchman said of Sterling in comments that have infuriated City officials and puzzled pundits.
Former England striker and BBC pundit Alan Shearer said on Match of the Day 2: "There is no way that was a dive and it was a penalty.
"It's one thing for Wenger to deflect from his team's inadequacies, it's another to question someone's integrity and be wrong. I think he owes Sterling an apology."
City officials have since pointed out that the winger stayed on his feet after being pushed by Kyle Walker, then a Tottenham player, during Spurs' visit to the Etihad last season.
REPUTATION PRECEDES HIM
I believe it was no penalty. We know that Raheem Sterling dives well, he does that very well.
ARSENE WENGER, Arsenal manager, lays the blame for the Gunners' 3-1 defeat by Manchester City squarely at the feet of City winger Raheem Sterling and his propensity to go down easily in the box.
Their bafflement at the criticism is increased by the fact that Wenger tried to sign the England player in the final week of the transfer window as part of Alexis Sanchez's proposed £60 million (S$107 million) move to City, which fell through on deadline day in August.
City are not minded to make a formal complaint against Wenger, who is not facing a Football Association charge, but are also disappointed by his claim that Pep Guardiola's team seem to get favourable treatment from referees during home matches.
Wenger said that his team have become used to not getting fair treatment in Manchester after he claimed that both of City's goals in their 2-1 win over Arsenal last season should have been ruled out for offside.
At the weekend, he pointed out that David Silva was offside in the build-up to City's third goal.
City observed that Arsenal defender Sead Kolasinac was not punished for appearing to push Sterling in the penalty area during the first half on Sunday.
OUT OF LINE
There is no way that was a dive and it was a penalty... I think he owes Sterling an apology.
ALAN SHEARER, BBC pundit, feels Wenger should say sorry for casting aspersions on Sterling's character.
They also noted that in the closing moments of April's 2-2 draw at the Emirates Stadium, Nacho Monreal's handball in the Arsenal area following a Jesus Navas shot did not result in a spot kick. The Spanish left-back admitted to compatriot Guardiola after the final whistle that he had handled the ball.
There was also a Sterling goal controversially ruled out during last April's FA Cup semi-final between the sides when Leroy Sane's cross was wrongly ruled to have gone out.
City lost the tie in extra time, while the Gunners went on to lift the FA Cup.
THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN