Raheem Sterling was the focus of Pep Guardiola’s praise after the Manchester City attacker netted a hat-trick in the 4-0 win at Norwich City.
Having opened the scoring with a superb long-range strike, Sterling headed home a Ruben Dias cross, then scored left-footed after seeing a weak penalty parried away by Canaries stopper Angus Gunn, giving the England international a perfect hat-trick as City moved 12 points clear at the top of the Premier League.
Sterling has now racked up 10 goal contributions (eight goals and two assists) in his last eight Premier League games against Norwich, and has scored five Premier League hat-tricks since joining the club in 2015.
He is the third City player to score a perfect hat-trick in the Premier League, after Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero (twice), though no player has netted more away hat-tricks in the competition than Sterling, with each of his last three coming on the road.
The former Liverpool winger averages a goal or assist every 66 minutes in the Premier League against Norwich – he only has a better record against Watford (64 minutes) – and Guardiola was full delighted.
“He made a fantastic game,” the 51-year-old said of Sterling, who is City’s top scorer in the league with 10 goals so far this season despite reportedly being open to leaving the club last year.
“Especially after the [first] goal, he was so aggressive and direct.
“He made a fantastic goal [the opener], and for the second one he was there.
“He has been an incredibly important player in all these seasons, with the amount of goals and assists [he gets]. He always creates something.
“When he has confidence, he is a really important player.”
Sterling was on fire at Carrow Road, scoring his three goals from chances equating to 2.09 expected goals, and attempting more shots (five) than any other player on the pitch.
Phil Foden also got on the scoresheet, though fellow England attacker Jack Grealish missed the match through injury, and Guardiola was uncertain when asked about the timescale of the 26-year-old’s return.
“I hope [the injury is not serious]. We will see,” Guardiola explained.
“I don’t know if he will be ready for Tuesday [against Sporting in the Champions League]. After [the] Brentford [game] we trained and he was uncomfortable.
“He was not able to play today, but hopefully in the next days [he can].”
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