Ster­ling sees red af­ter his win­ner saves Pep’s blushes

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - THE TITLE - By Riath Al-Sa­mar­rai

AMID the chaos of Manch­ester City’s cel­e­bra­tions, Vin­cent Kom­pany walked over to Ben­jamin Mendy, his new £52mil­lion team­mate, and calmly said: ‘Wel­come to the Premier League.’

It was a game that demon­strated the mad­ness of this divi­sion, where a player can score a win­ner seven min­utes into the five al­lo­cated for stop­page-time and then get sent off for cel­e­brat­ing.

That’s what hap­pened to Ra­heem Ster­ling, who went charg­ing to the side­lines in an eye-bulging frenzy, rev­el­ling in the strike that com­pleted the come­back af­ter Gabriel Je­sus can­celled out Char­lie Daniels’ first-half en­try for goal of the sea­son. The City sup­port­ers rushed to join him and the ref­eree, Mike Dean, did not like what he saw, giv­ing Ster­ling a sec­ond yel­low card in the space of five min­utes.

Dean will no doubt con­test he was stick­ing rigidly to his rules, but it was one of those de­ci­sions, in one of those mo­ments, that seemed rather heavy-handed.

‘I would like some­one to com­ment,’ said City man­ager Pep Guardi­ola. ‘If you can­not cel­e­brate with the fans the best so­lu­tion is not to in­vite the fans. So at the end of the game, you score a goal, you can imag­ine how happy the guy is, and the team, they want to go with our fans.’

It was a grum­ble wrapped in re­lief, for this was a game in which City had 70 per cent of the pos­ses­sion but also might have lost. Quite aside from trail­ing to a Daniels thun­der­bolt from the left edge of the area that went in off the bar, they were also saved by a post when Josh King shot at 1-1 in the sec­ond half.

‘If you ask me about my im­pres­sion of the game I’m go­ing to tell you they were bet­ter than us,’ Guardi­ola ad­mit­ted.

Ster­ling’s goal saved an un­beaten start to the sea­son, but al­ready there are ques­tions to be asked, par­tic­u­larly of a de­fence which was boosted by more than £130mil­lion of re­in­force­ments in the sum­mer, yet coughed up nu­mer­ous op­por­tu­ni­ties here. The at­tack will for­ever cre­ate chances, as it should with such in­sane riches that they could put Ser­gio Aguero on the bench, but City will need to be far tighter at the other end to win the ti­tle.

How Guardi­ola achieves that re­mains to be seen, given he switched to a four-man de­fence af­ter go­ing with a three in the pre­vi­ous two. He also made four changes, with Mendy, Danilo, Bernardo Silva and Ster­ling com­ing in for John Stones, the sus­pended Kyle Walker, Leroy Sane and Aguero.

Of those step­ping in, Mendy, on his de­but, and Danilo were given al­most com­plete li­cence to roam for­ward from left and right back, a dy­namic that made for fast at­tacks but left plenty of space for Bournemouth coun­ters when pos­ses­sion was lost.

Also on City’s agenda will be the Aguero sit­u­a­tion, given the sur­prise of his de­mo­tion to the bench. Just as last sea­son, Guardi­ola does not seem con­vinced by a striker who by ev­ery mea­sure is one of the best in the world. He cut a sulky fig­ure on the side­lines un­til his in­tro­duc­tion on 66 min­utes, with Guardi­ola say­ing the de­ci­sion was based on want­ing an ex­tra man in mid­field.

In any case, they could have had 12 in the side and they would not have stopped Daniels’ opener.

Jer­main De­foe, mak­ing his first start, then volleyed at Eder­son be­fore Je­sus lev­elled fol­low­ing a lovely through­ball from David Silva.

With a draw look­ing cer­tain, City got their break, with Danilo pass­ing into the path of Ster­ling, who bun­dled in via An­drew Sur­man’s an­kle. He went to the crowd and was served rough jus­tice, and all the while al­le­ga­tions were be­ing made against Aguero by a ste­ward and Howe was seething about a free-kick given in the build-up. Bonkers and bril­liant.

Mendy must won­der what he’s got­ten into.

HAND­BAGS: Stew­ards and po­lice hold back the City play­ers

CLASH: Ser­gio Aguero has been ac­cused of hit­ting a ste­ward, but pic­tures and video from the in­ci­dent ap­pear to show him ex­press­ing con­cern for the wel­fare of a fan fol­low­ing Ra­heem Ster­ling’s 97th-minute win­ner.

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