Guardiola hails trey but Sterling laments not making it four

Raheem Sterling scoring Manchester City's fifth goal past Atalanta goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini to complete his hat-trick in the Champions League game at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday night. PHOTO: REUTERS
Raheem Sterling scoring Manchester City's fifth goal past Atalanta goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini to complete his hat-trick in the Champions League game at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday night. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola saluted the "extraordinary" Raheem Sterling for a brilliant 11-minute hat-trick in the 5-1 Champions League rout of Atalanta, but the winger insisted that he was not satisfied with his tally.

"I should have had four," he told BT Sport after becoming the eighth Englishman to score a trey in Europe's top club competition.

"Riyad Mahrez put me through and I was looking to put one on a plate for him. But I went through and should have finished it."

He hit his treble in the second half at the Etihad Stadium after providing the assists for Sergio Aguero's brace before the interval on Tuesday night.

Atalanta snatched a shock lead through Ruslan Malinovsky before Aguero's double and Sterling's sublime show hauled City to their third successive Group C win. They are now top on nine points.

Sterling was pleased with the way City kept their patience in the face of intense pressing early on.

"It was difficult with them going man for man, it was tough to get space. But we had to stay patient, wait for a chance and take them when they came," he said.

The 24-year-old has emerged as his team's driving force in the last 18 months and his second trey of the season confirmed his place among the world's best players.

"All the credit is for him. He's a guy whose physicality is incredible. He is so strong," Guardiola said.

"A day after a game, he could play another. His regeneration is incredible and he can play both sides. He is an extraordinary player."

Asked if Sterling could get even better, the manager added: "It depends on him, his desire, and I think he has that."

The Spaniard also called on City to show they have the mentality to conquer the "little margins" needed to win Europe's top prize for the first time. "Overall, it was an incredible effort. That is why I am so satisfied with the result," he said.

"Three more points and we will be in the next stage."

Atalanta, making their Champions League debut this season, are still searching for their first point after a third consecutive defeat.

"Manchester City are strong and showed it, but we let our heads drop too quickly. When they have space to run into, they're unstoppable," said their coach Gian Piero Gasperini. "I had hoped to make the game last longer, as we conceded avoidable goals."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2019, with the headline 'Guardiola hails trey but Sterling laments not making it four'. Print Edition | Subscribe