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United back to form; City stay top – Sterling scores hat-trick

Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling (left), scores his side’s fourth goal of the game to complete his hat-trick, past Bournemouth’s Andrew Surman, during their English Premier League soccer match at The Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England on Oct 17. (AP)
Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling (left), scores his side’s fourth goal of the game to complete his hat-trick, past Bournemouth’s Andrew Surman, during their English Premier League soccer match at The Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England on Oct 17. (AP)

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom, Oct 17, (AFP): Raheem Sterling’s first-half hat-trick ensured Manchester City stayed top of the Premier League with a 5-1 mauling of Bournemouth on Saturday.

Sterling, who had previously scored just twice for City since his £49 million (66.6 million euros) summer move from Liverpool, took advantage of uncertainty in the visitors’ ranks after they lost goalkeeper Artur Boruc to an injury in the warm-up.

Adam Federici, Boruc’s replacement, was badly at fault as Wilfried Bony scored only his third City goal since arriving from Swansea in January.

And although Glenn Murray did pull Bournemouth back to 2-1 midway through the first half, Sterling struck twice more, completing his hat-trick following a mix-up involving Federici and midfielder Andrew Surman before Bony added another late on.

Bournemouth have suffered a series of injury setbacks since winning promotion to the top flight, losing top scorer Callum Wilson and summer signings Tyrone Mings and Max Gradel to serious knee injuries.

Manager Eddie Howe has also lost captain Tommy Elphick for the next 10 weeks because of ankle trouble, and suffered another setback with Boruc.

Howe’s side were positive despite all of those problems, and had a very strong penalty claim rejected in the first five minutes, as Nicolas Otamendi caught Dan Gosling with a sliding challenge after Matt Ritchie’s shot had been blocked.

Yet City survived that scare and were 2-0 up inside the first 11 minutes as Federici endured a forgettable Premier League debut for the Cherries.

Federici was blameless as Sterling touched in a seventh minute opener — possibly from an offside position — after Pablo Zabaleta had charged forward to head Fernandinho’s diagonal pass across goal, and Bony had touched on.

The Australian goalkeeper, though, made a horrendous mistake four minutes later, fumbling a straightforward Bacary Sagna cross delivered from the left, and allowing Bony to run the ball into the net.

It was to Bournemouth’s credit that they did not fold there and then.

Federici made a fine flying save to tip aside a Kevin De Bruyne shot moments later, before Murray took advantage of some slack City defending to pull a goal back.

Murray, once of City’s lower-league neighbours Stockport and Rochdale, strode forward as defender Eliaquim Mangala backed off, and drove a shot past Joe Hart from the edge of the penalty area.

The home side responded quickly, though, as Sterling broke on to De Bruyne’s perfectly-weighted pass, left Steve Cook and former City captain Sylvain Distin on the floor with a couple of neat feints, and steered in his second goal.

Federici did brilliantly to tip a De Bruyne shot on to the bar after that, but his first half ended with more misery, as he got into a mix-up with Andrew Surman in dealing with a long ball, and Jesus Navas nipped in.

Federici denied Navas, but Sterling steered the rebound between the keeper’s legs for a first-half hat-trick.

United 3, Everton 0

In Liverpool, Wayne Rooney scored against former club Everton while further finishes from Morgan Schneiderlin and Ander Herrera helped Manchester United to a comfortable 3-0 victory at Goodison Park on Saturday.

United had won just one of their previous seven visits to the blue half of Merseyside but Louis van Gaal’s side were too strong for a home team who were well below par on an afternoon tinged with sadness.

The news broke earlier on Saturday that Howard Kendall, Everton’s most successful — and consequently popular — manager had passed away that morning of a heart attack.

Kendall had a hugely illustrious playing career at Goodison Park, winning the First Division title in 1970, before assuming the managerial mantle on three separate occasions.

He delivered the Football League title twice (1985, 1987), the FA Cup in 1984 and the European Cup Winners Cup in 1985 during a halcyon spell where Everton and near-neighbours Liverpool dominated the English football landscape.

Kendall’s passing added a sombre touch to an occasion that Everton would have otherwise felt hugely confident of winning.

Van Gaal’s side entered this match on the back of a 3-0 defeat to Arsenal prior to the international break which had halted their progress this term.

They had also lost their three previous visits to this ground, all without scoring.

However, Everton had little to show for their efforts and United punished them with former prodigy Rooney twisting the knife in the second half.

Neither of these sides have really hit top gear so far this season — despite their impressive Premier League placings — and this match had a quiet opening.

Everton’s Romelu Lukaku was the only man who looked like scoring as he caused problems for Chris Smalling and Phil Jones in United’s defence while the visitors seemed extremely reluctant to test home goalkeeper Tim Howard.

Genuinely exciting moments remained non-existent until Schneiderlin ended the tedium and opened the scoring after 18 minutes.

Following a corner, Steve Naismith’s clearance only fell to Marcos Rojo, whose shot deflected off Smalling and into the path of the unmarked Schneiderlin, who calmly passed the ball past Howard from 12 yards.

Until that point, Everton had enjoyed more possession but had done nothing with it and just as they started to try and work their way back into the contest, United scored a second — a goal that proved to be a real killer blow.

Chelsea 2, Villa 0

In London, Chelsea forward Diego Costa played a key role in a 2-0 victory over Aston Villa on Saturday that eased the pressure on Jose Mourinho following the Premier League champions’ woeful start to the season.

Costa scored the opening goal and then saw his shot deflected in off defender Alan Hutton as home supporters celebrated just a third league victory of the season by chanting Mourinho’s name.

But, with the nerves around Stamford Bridge obvious, it had taken a dreadful double error from the visitors to allow Costa to ease the growing concern among home supporters by shooting his side into a 34th-minute lead.

Goalkeeper Brad Guzan had repeatedly looked uneasy when placed under pressure by the home side and his hurried kick was mis-hit in the direction of Joleon Lescott who failed to control the ball, gifting it to Willian.

The midfielder sprinted into the Villa area and waited for the goalkeeper to commit himself before squaring for Costa, recalled after serving a three-game suspension, to convert the ball into a gaping net.

The goal had been badly needed for Blues boss Mourinho because, until that point, Villa had created as many, if not more, chances as their hosts.

Just two minutes before the opening goal, Tim Sherwood’s team had carved out their best to date, Jordan Ayew being allowed to surge down to the left-hand by-line from where his cross found Rudy Gestede who poked an effort just wide, under pressure from John Terry.

It was the latest example of uncertain defending in the home defence, where Baba Rahman was making his first start, and looking unconvincing in the process.

Hutton skipped away from the left-back far too easily after 11 minutes, advancing into the area and seeing a low, driven shot kept out by the outstretched boot of Asmir Begovic.

There was also a low shot from Jack Grealish and direct free-kick from Ayew, both from the edge of the Chelsea area, which required Begovic to make routine saves.

Mourinho, keen to see a swift improvement to his team’s worst start to a season in 37 years, had left out Eden Hazard, replacing him with highly-regarded teenager Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

West Ham 3, Palace 1

In London, West Ham United went up to third in the Premier League as late goals from Manuel Lanzini and Dimitri Payet gave them a 3-1 victory at 10-man Crystal Palace on Saturday.

The Eagles dropped to sixth with the defeat as they struggled after Dwight Gayle was dismissed before half-time.

Carl Jenkinson had given the Hammers a first-half lead but France midfielder Yohan Cabaye equalised from the spot with a retaken penalty.

Gayle was given his marching orders for two yellow cards but Palace held out until two minutes from time when Lanzini struck. Payet put the gloss on the victory in stoppage time.

Palace boss Alan Pardew had named an unchanged side from the 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion last time out.

For West Ham, Diafra Sakho started up front with Enner Valencia, back from a knee injury, and Andy Carroll on the bench.

West Ham had the better of the early exchanges and took a deserved lead through right-back Jenkinson, who slotted home a pass from former Palace man Victor Moses.

The lead lasted only three minutes, though, as Jenkinson then gave away a penalty after clattering into Gayle.

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