Manchester - 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 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
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.
Sterling had two more chances to add goals,
but his first-half composure failed him, hitting the side netting with one
opening and rolling another wide.
Midfielder Yaya Toure's half-time
withdrawal checked City's momentum, and their fans will be hoping that manager
Manuel Pellegrini was being nothing more than cautious in taking him off.
There was, though, one more goal before the
afternoon was over, as Bony turned cleverly on to Navas' cross for his second
in the final minute.
There might have been another, but
substitute Kelechi Iheanacho was ruled offside after running through to chip
Federici in stoppage time.
For Pellegrini, this was the strong
performance needed ahead of major tests against Sevilla and the Champions
League on Wednesday, and Manchester United in the Premier League next Sunday.