Guardiola defends 'incredible' Sterling

Raheem Sterling tripped against Shakhtar Donetsk and won a penalty, but Pep Guardiola insists he should not be accused of diving.

Raheem Sterling was awarded a controversial penalty in Manchester City's win over Shakhtar Donetsk.   -  Getty Images

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola believes Raheem Sterling has received unfair criticism following a controversial penalty incident against Shakhtar Donetsk.

Sterling tripped when through on goal during City's rampant 6-0 win over the Ukrainian champions, having kicked the turf when shaping to shoot.

Referee Viktor Kassai incorrectly ruled that the England winger had been felled by Mykola Matvyenko, however, awarding a penalty that Gabriel Jesus converted.

Sterling subsequently apologised for not informing the referee of his mistake, although Guardiola insisted that the City forward, who has signed a contract extension until 2023, was right not to do so.

READ | Sterling apologises to referee and Shakhtar over penalty

And, ahead of Sunday's Manchester derby, Guardiola has again come to the 23-year-old's defence.

"I think this time I realised it's unfair because I don't know why you should criticise Raheem," Guardiola told a news conference.

"It's not diving either. Tripping is a mistake, it was a bad decision of the referee. He's an incredible guy, he does absolutely everything on the pitch, fighting in front and he made a mistake because he's 23 years old.

"He maybe goes too fast, maybe he has to do it slower. Believe me, what the people said about this action I didn't understand. He will become stronger, he's stronger than when we met each other in the first year. Now, he controls these emotions much, much better."

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