Soccer

Raheem Sterling hat trick ignites Man City in season-opening rout of West Ham

AFP-JIJI

Manchester City made a flying start to its Premier League title defense as Raheem Sterling’s hat trick inspired a 5-0 demolition of West Ham on Saturday.

Pep Guardiola’s side is bidding to become just the second club in the Premier League era to win three successive titles.

And after Liverpool laid down an early marker with a 4-1 win against Norwich City in the season’s opening game on Friday, the defending champions responded with a swaggering display of their own at the London Stadium.

Brazil forward Gabriel Jesus opened the scoring to repay Guardiola’s faith after the City manager picked him instead of the club’s record goalscorer Sergio Aguero.

Then Sterling took over, replicating his dynamic form of last season with a two classy finishes.

Substitute Aguero bagged City’s fourth with a penalty after his first effort from the spot was saved, only for VAR to call for a retake after Lukasz Fabianski came off his line too soon.

Sterling wrapped up his treble in the final moments as City showed it has no intention of conceding any early ground to European champion Liverpool, which finished just one point behind it last term.

Guardiola had admitted before kickoff that City might have to do even better than last season to fend off Liverpool.

This was the perfect start as City made it nine successive opening-day wins.

“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.”

City had won all four of its previous visits to the London Stadium by an aggregate score of 17-1, netting at least four goals in each match, and once again it ran riot at West Ham’s expense.

Guardiola handed a first Premier League start to club-record signing Rodri and the Spain midfielder showed signs of nerves when he allowed Manuel Lanzini to rob him in his own penalty area.

But it was a rare stumble from City’s impressive new boy and the visitors were soon into their stride.

Riyad Mahrez, surprisingly selected ahead of Bernardo Silva, produced City’s first menacing moment when the Algeria winger cut in from the right flank for a long-range strike that Fabianski pushed away.

When City’s opening goal came in the 25th minute, it was the kind of incisive raid that has left so many opponents helpless over the last two years.