Sterling strikes late as Manchester City clinches top spot

A draw against Feyenoord would have been enough for Manchester City to clinch top spot, but Raheem Sterling earned a late win.

Raheem Sterling celebrates after scoring during the Champions League group F soccer match between Manchester City and Feyenoord.   -  AP

Raheem Sterling struck a late winner as Manchester City clinched top spot in Champions League Group F after a 1-0 victory over Feyenoord at the Etihad Stadium.

England international Sterling finished expertly in the 88th minute as City retained its 100 per cent record in the competition, though just a draw would have been enough to guarantee first place in its section, with Shakhtar Donetsk going down 3-0 to Napoli.

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Pep Guardiola made seven alterations from the side that defeated Leicester City 2-0 at the weekend, but a front three formed of Bernardo Silva, Sterling and Sergio Aguero, back in the line-up and wearing the captain's armband after being taken to hospital having felt faint at half-time in Argentina's defeat to Nigeria last week, struggled in front of goal for much of the match.

Phil Foden runs with the ball during the Champions League group F soccer match between Manchester City and Feyenoord, at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday.   -  AP

 

Aguero and Silva failed to convert excellent first-half chances, while some nervy moments involving centre-backs Nicolas Otamendi and Eliaquim Mangala could provide the manager with cause for concern.

City upped its efforts in the second period and sent on Gabriel Jesus for Kevin De Bruyne, who picked up a booking that rules him out of the next match against Shakhtar, as well as handing senior debuts to 17-year-old Philip Foden and his fellow teenager Brahim Diaz.

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It finally got its reward when Sterling, who now has four goals in four Champions League starts this term, finished a give-and-go with Ilkay Gundogan by clipping over the onrushing Brad Jones, as City extended a club record streak to 25 unbeaten matches in succession, while lowly Feynoord was consigned to finishing bottom in the group.

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After a tepid opening 20 minutes referee Ivan Kruzliak turned down a weak penalty claim from Aguero, before a well-executed sliding tackle on Jean-Paul Boetius saw Ederson escape from a heavy first touch outside his box unscathed.

A lovely run down the left wing from De Bruyne ended with an exquisitely shaped delivery for Aguero, who was unable to turn his near-post header on target in the 32nd minute.

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Sam Larsson gave City a scare when he turned Kyle Walker inside out and curled a lovely effort narrowly wide of the bottom-right corner, but Silva passed up the best chance of the half when he side-footed a tame shot from the right side of the box straight at Jones.

Key Opta stats
  • Manchester City has won five successive Champions League games for the first time in its history.
  • Manchester City has now scored in 23 of its last 24 competitive fixtures – the only time that it didn't score in this run was against a Championship side (Wolves in the EFL Cup).
  • This was Pep Guardiola's 50th win as Manchester City manager, in what was his 75th game in charge of the club (W50 D15 L10). It took him 71 games to reach this landmark at Barcelona and just 65 games at Bayern Munich.
  • Phil Foden became the fourth-youngest English player to make an appearance in the Champions League (17y 177d). Only Jack Wilshere, Dominic Solanke & Ainsley Maitland-Niles have been younger on their CL debut.
  • Raheem Sterling has now scored in four successive Champions League appearances for Manchester City.
  • Sterling now has more goals for Manchester City this season in 17 appearances (11) than he did in 47 appearances last season (10).

 

The host looked sharper after the restart but De Bruyne was booked for clumsy challenge on Steven Berghuis and, after Larsson drilled the resultant free-kick narrowly over, he made way for Jesus.

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Yaya Toure, starting a match for the first time in almost a month, curled a set-piece just wide in the 67th minute, though a touch from Jones helped it on its way behind and went unnoticed by the officials.

Feyenoord grew in confidence as the scoresheet remained blank and Berghuis would have been the first name on it had Ederson not tipped over from the former Watford man.

After Foden entered the fray, Aguero had a chance to steal all three points for City when he brought down Silva's pass in the box. However, he could not wrap his foot around the ball enough to steer his shot on target.

It was Sterling who finally broke the deadlock, spinning in behind and adding a delightful chipped finish to Gundogan's throughball as City continued its flawless Champions League campaign.