Too easy for top two

Raheem Sterling lobbing West Ham goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski for Manchester City's third goal, and his second, at the London Stadium. The English forward later completed his hat-trick as the champions hit the Hammers for five in a one-sided league op
Raheem Sterling lobbing West Ham goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski for Manchester City's third goal, and his second, at the London Stadium. The English forward later completed his hat-trick as the champions hit the Hammers for five in a one-sided league opener. PHOTO: REUTERS
Mohamed Salah slotting home Liverpool's second goal against Norwich at Anfield. The Reds won 4-1.
Mohamed Salah slotting home Liverpool's second goal against Norwich at Anfield. The Reds won 4-1. PHOTO: REUTERS

Sterling stars in City's dashing victory 

ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE

West Ham 0

Manchester City 5

LONDON • The 2019-20 English Premier League season started the same way the previous one ended - with champions Manchester City doing just a little better than runners-up Liverpool.

Less than 24 hours after the Reds set the tone in this season's title race with a thumping 4-1 home victory against Norwich, Pep Guardiola's side put on a five-star display, scoring five goals without reply at West Ham.

Brazil forward Gabriel Jesus opened the scoring midway through the first half in London before Raheem Sterling took over, scoring three goals in the second half as the champions started their title defence in ominous form.

Sergio Aguero was the other scorer, opening his account for the season with a twice-taken penalty in the closing minutes.

"The most important thing was to start well and get the win. Once the second goal went in I thought we were brilliant," Sterling told BT Sport.

"It was quite difficult in the first half. Some of our touches were sloppy but, once the team got into a rhythm, the passes came and more chances came.

"With the players we have here there are competitions in training every day. It's a joy to put the ball in the back of the net."

Guardiola was pleased with his team's second-half display but had some critical words for their performance in the opening 45 minutes.

"It was difficult away from home, 12.30pm kick-off, hot. The first half was not good. We didn't control second balls and lost a lot of balls," said the Spaniard.

"It was important to get three points, a clean sheet. At 2-0, they have a chance. Overall for the first game it is an incredible result.

"The second half was much better. More calm, but still we have many things to improve."

Jesus became the first player to have a goal chalked off by the video assistant referee (VAR) in the Premier League when, in the 53rd minute, he tapped home Sterling's lay-off. However, the VAR adjudged Sterling to be marginally offside.

VAR, making its debut this season, was then used to validate Sterling's second, when he collected a lofted ball into the box and lobbedLukasz Fabianski.

The video staff were busy again in the 84th minute when City were awarded a penalty for Issa Diop's foul on Riyad Mahrez.

Substitute Aguero's soft penalty was saved but the VAR ruled Declan Rice was encroaching into the box and referee Mike Dean ordered a re-take which the Argentinian scored from.

Guardiola said the VAR decisions were a reminder for the team to keep their cool in what are still unusual situations.

"You have to be mentally strong when VAR is not on your side. You think at 0-3 the game is almost over but at 0-2, the game is completely different," he said.

"You have to be calm and be strong, it is going to change the dynamic not just for the team but (also) for the spectators."

AGENCE-FRANCE PRESSE, REUTERS


Reds could have scored more: Klopp

LONDON • Ahead of their season-opener against Norwich on Friday, a mosaic appeared on the Kop to celebrate Liverpool's sixth European Cup.

The Kop roared in approval when the announcer said "and this is how the champions of Europe line up" before delivering the Reds' starting eleven.

Jurgen Klopp's men did not disappoint the Anfield faithful as the Premier League runners-up started their new campaign in style, thrashing newcomers Norwich 4-1.

The home team scored all four goals - via an own goal by Grant Henley, and strikes by Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk and Divock Origi - in the first half in a show of their intent to win their first top-flight title in 30 years.

On his team's performance, Klopp said: "Good. For a long part of the game, really good. I think the first 60 minutes were pretty impressive... We could have scored more, especially after half-time and that would maybe then impress the opponent a bit more.

"They had their pretty risky formation and used that, but we were not really in danger, they were just good in a lot of moments. So we had to defend a couple of times in the last moment.

"Passion makes a difference in these moments, that's what you have to show and I liked a lot the work-rate we put in and the respect we showed them."

First-choice goalkeeper Alisson Becker had to be replaced by reserve Adrian after the Brazilian went to ground after taking a goal kick. Adrian joined Liverpool on a free transfer from West Ham earlier in the week.

It was the only blot on the Reds' start of another attempt to win the league, having lost the trophy to Manchester City by one point before winning the Champions League last term.

Klopp admitted Alisson, who kept 20 clean sheets in his first Premier League season and was also instrumental in Liverpool's Champions League triumph, would not be fit for this week's European Super Cup final against Chelsea.

"It's a calf injury," the Reds manager confirmed, saying Alisson "felt as if something hit him from the back".

"He won't be ready for Wednesday, I can say that already. It is not good but we will find a solution and move on," he added.

Klopp also admitted despite signing Adrian, Liverpool are short of goalkeepers as their third senior custodian Caoimhin Kelleher works to recover from a broken bone in his hand.

"Caoimhin is back in training but he's not 100 per cent, we have to see what happens," Klopp said.

However, the German added he had full confidence in Adrian.

"He is a very confident guy. He came in and I don't think he wanted to only sit on the bench for the next couple of years," he said.

"You want to have somebody who played the league, who is experienced. He's 32, he's a calm guy, good with his feet. So a lot of good things."

AGENCE-FRANCE PRESSE, XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 11, 2019, with the headline 'Too easy for top two'. Print Edition | Subscribe