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Manchester City

Supersub Sterling can’t stop scoring as Man City edge Dinamo Zagreb

00:23 EAT 02/10/2019
Raheem Sterling Manchester City 2019-20
Pep Guardiola's side moved clear at the top of their group in the Champions League with a hard-fought 2-0 victory over their Croatian opponents

Pep Guardiola turned to Raheem Sterling as Manchester City struggled to break Dinamo Zagreb down - and once again he delivered.

The England forward transformed City in the space of 10 minutes to put them in a commanding position in their Champions League group.

City were heading for another frustrating European night after a sluggish performance against the Croatians when Guardiola summoned Sterling from the bench in the 66th minute.

He instantly injected the energy and fizz that was missing.

Passes were sharper and the movement was quicker as he set the tempo for his team-mates by driving relentlessly at the Zagreb defence.

Within 10 minutes of his introduction he made the breakthrough to transform a lethargic night into the victory that was expected.

His goal was nothing special as he tapped in Riyad Mahrez’s low cross in a replica of a myriad of classic City goals scored since Guardiola took charge of the club.

In the dying moments he teed up fellow substitute Phil Foden to clinch a 2-0 victory.

In just 24 minutes, Sterling yet again produced the decisive moments as City took a grip of Group C with four games remaining. He stepped up on a night when Kevin De Bruyne was injured and Sergio Aguero was misfiring.

Sterling has been pushing to be on the same level as the greatest players in Europe for the past two seasons and starring in the Champions League is what is expected of the best.

The 24-year-old has now been directly involved in 19 goals in his last 16 home appearances in the Champions League for City - with 11 goals and eight assists.

That comes along with contributing 11 goals for club and country this term.

It was a timely introduction.

Until then it had been a typical European night at the Etihad Stadium with boos greeting the Champions League anthem and the usual VAR controversy.

Despite their lethargic performance, City created and missed five decent chances in the first half without testing the goalkeeper.

Aguero and Bernardo Silva twice fired over the bar before Ilkay Gundogan cracked a fierce drive onto the crossbar.

City would have expected a penalty when Benjamin Mendy’s cross clearly touched the hand of Kevin Theophile-Catherine.

With UEFA's threshold for handballs far lower than the Premier League, a VAR check would normally bring a penalty in European football but there was no overturning the referee’s decision.

Nevertheless, Guardiola would have expected more from his side.

Joao Cancelo struggled to make an impression on his first outing at the Etihad Stadium, while Bernardo Silva was muted on the left wing.

He was the man that made way for Sterling and with that the game was transformed.