The Sunday Post (Dundee)
Ace Aguero is at the double for slick City
STOKE CITY 1 Krkic (49 pen) MAN CITY 4 Agüero (27 pen, 36), Nolito (86, 90+5)
PEP GUARDIOLA admits he has been surprised by how quickly Manchester City’s players have adopted his methods after a 4-1 victory over Stoke continued the Spaniard’s 100 per cent start.
After last Saturday’s 2-1 win over Sunderland, City have scored nine times in their past two games, with Sergio Aguero and substitute Nolito both claiming doubles in Staffordshire four days on from their 5-0 rout of Steaua Bucharest.
It was thought that a fixture at the bet365 Stadium would present a big test for the embryonic Guardiola regime following Stoke’s 2-0 victory here last year and, after Aguero’s first-half double, the Potters hit back through a Bojan Krkic penalty.
However, two late Nolito goals gave Guardiola a third win on the bounce and he anticipates there is even more to come.
“It is impossible to say what is our target or what we can achieve,” the Spaniard said. “But in the short time together my players show me how intelligent they are. They are really good players, they have a lot of quality. We can show it here, in one of the toughest games in the Premier League, with these conditions, when it is windy. It is impossible to come here for 90 minutes and control the game.
“I am a little bit surprised in the short time the level we play here and in Bucharest; it’s very good. We have scored nine goals in two games. Today it is not easy, we have been working together for a short time but we were intensive. It was a nice week for us.”
Stoke boss Mark Hughes may have felt more aggrieved over some of referee Mike Dean’s controversial decisions, which centred around the awarding of two penalties either side of the half, which may have been allowed to slide in previous campaigns.
City benefited in the first half when Ryan Shawcross’ grab of Nicolas Otamendi’s arm saw Dean put his whistle to his mouth and Raheem Sterling was adjudged to have impeded Shawcross at the same end in the second half.
Hughes said of Dean’s performance: “Unfortunately, we had a penalty awarded against us at a key moment when I felt we were in the ascendancy and it knocked us sideways. We know the directives. This time last year the penalty wouldn’t have been awarded,” said the Welshman.
City, with Joe Hart again on the bench and Yaya Toure also omitted, were highly impressive for most of the first half and good value for their victory.
The visitors were straight on the front foot with Aguero firing across the face of goal and Raheem Sterling – booed by the Stoke fans, presumably after his poor summer with England – curling a shot narrowly over.
But, as good as City looked going forward, there were still vulnerabilities at the back and they were caught out after one of centre-back John Stones’ forays forward. Marko Arnautovic broke clear but he mishit his shot and Joe Allen drove a follow-up attempt over the bar. Allen had another chance when Bojan slipped him through on goal but Nicolas Otamendi blocked.
City responded with a quick break of their own but Sterling, this time starting on the left, shot tamely. Their breakthrough came in the 27th minute after Ryan Shawcross was penalised for holding Otamendi in the area. Aguero, despite missing twice from the spot in midweek, retained penalty-taking duties and sent former City keeper Shay Given the wrong way.
Aguero doubled his tally from another dead-ball situation after 36 minutes, this time rising to meet a Kevin De Bruyne freekick with a powerful header.
The Potters were awarded a spot-kick of their own early in the second half after Sterling was harshly adjudged to have impeded Shawcross at a corner by referee Mike Dean. Bojan made the most of the opportunity and rifled home from 12 yards.
Guardiola’s men became far more ragged after this and lost the precision of passing with which they controlled most of the first half.
City made sure of victory four minutes from time when Kelechi Iheanacho won possession and took the ball round Given to set up a tap-in for fellow-sub Nolito. Nolito claimed another in stoppage time after a fine run from Sterling.