Sterling sparkles as Manchester City see off Aston Villa

Aston Villa’s Trezeguet and Manchester City’s Joao Cancelo during their match at Etihad Stadium in Manchester on Saturday. (Reuters)
Updated 26 October 2019

Sterling sparkles as Manchester City see off Aston Villa

  • Raheem Sterling inspires a 3-0 win; Guardiola’s side closes the gap on Liverpool to 3 points

MANCHESTER: Manchester City closed the gap on Premier League leaders Liverpool to three points as Raheem Sterling inspired a 3-0 win over Aston Villa on Saturday. Pep Guardiola’s side survived a tame opening period as second half goals from Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan put Villa to the sword.
City’s second successive league victory lifted them above Leicester into second place and put pressure on Liverpool to beat Tottenham in Sunday’s clash at Anfield.
The only frustration for Guardiola was a red card for Fernandinho, who was dismissed after earning a second booking when he tugged at Keinan Davis in the 87th minute.
City were upset by Wolves in their last league fixture at the Etihad Stadium, but Guardiola had never lost back-to-back home league games as a manager and Sterling was key to ensuring that impressive record wasn’t ruined.
Sterling’s latest virtuoso display came just days after his second hat-trick of the campaign in City’s Champions League demolition of Atalanta.
The England winger has made a convincing case to be regarded as genuine superstar over the last 18 months and Villa had no answer to his intelligent movement, sublime skills and predatory finishing.
City have scored 32 league goals this season, 11 more than Liverpool, and their firepower was clear to see as they saw off Villa with their record scorer Sergio Aguero on the bench.
Gabriel Jesus made consecutive Premier League starts for the first time since December, but he squandered a chance to put City ahead when he dragged his close-range shot wide from Sterling’s pass.
No fewer than 11 City stars have suffered injuries this season, with Oleksandr Zinchenko and Rodri the latest to be sidelined for several weeks.
Guardiola admitted he was “a little bit concerned” about how City would cope, yet with Sterling on his side, anything is possible.
Sterling appealed for a penalty when his shot cannoned off Bjorn Engels’ arm, then glanced a header just wide.
John Stones was back in place of Rodri at the heart of City’s defense, but the England international looked rusty in his first start since September.
He gifted possession to Villa and Douglas Luiz almost took advantage when he tangled with City keeper Ederson, who narrowly avoided conceding a penalty in the melee.
Moments later, Stones threw himself in front of a Trezeguet shot, surviving a penalty appeal after the ball deflected onto his hand.
Despite their lack of rhythm in the first half, City should have been ahead at the break when Sterling teed up David Silva, only for the Spanish midfielder to shoot inches wide of the far post.
Usually firmly dedicated to Guardiola’s passing principles, City finally broke Villa’s stubborn resistence with a goal straight from the route one handbook.
A huge punt forward by Ederson was flicked on by Jesus into the path of the unmarked Sterling, who took one touch before shooting under Tom Heaton for his 13th goal in 14 appearances in all competitions this term.
City should have doubled their lead when Engels gave the ball away to Sterling and he picked out Jesus, but the Brazilian’s shot was brilliantly cleared off the line by Tyrone Mings.
It made no difference as Guardiola’s side were in the groove and they killed off Villa with two goals in 5 minutes.
In the 65th minute, De Bruyne swung in a cross that evaded Silva and Sterling before bouncing into the net.
A long VAR review followed to check for offside but the goal was given.
Gundogan put the result beyond doubt in the 70th minute with a clinical finish after Villa failed to clear.


Rising star Morikawa outguns Thomas in dramatic playoff

Updated 14 July 2020

Rising star Morikawa outguns Thomas in dramatic playoff

  • Morikawa, who had been the pacesetter through the first two rounds

LOS ANGELES: American Collin Morikawa tapped in a putt on the third playoff hole to outduel Justin Thomas in a wild Sunday finish and capture the PGA Tour Workday Charity Open.

Morikawa, who had been the pacesetter through the first two rounds, rallied from three strokes down with three holes remaining to force the playoff at Muirfield Village Golf Club.

He then stayed alive by draining a 24-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole immediately after third-round leader Thomas had made a jaw-dropping 50-foot putt for birdie.

“Amazing,” said the 23-year-old Morikawa, who carded a final round 66 to finish on 19-under par 269 and won for the second time on the  PGA Tour.

Sunday’s win made up for a disappointing loss in another dramatic playoff finish at the Charles Schwab Challenge four weeks ago in the PGA’s return from the COVID-19 calendar shutdown.

World No. 5 Thomas was trying to win for the 13th time on the Tour, but he was undone on the final hole of the playoff after his tee shot on the par-4 10th sailed right and landed behind a tree.

Thomas closed with a 69 but that included two bogeys in his final three holes after beginning his round with a two-stroke lead over Viktor Hovland, with Morikawa three adrift.

“I am pretty pissed off, it is the only way to explain it,” Thomas said. “I had a three-shot lead with three to go and completely handed it over.

“Collin played great. He had a very tough hole at 17.

“We both made two great birdies on the first playoff hole. I had two chances to win this thing in regulation and on the second playoff hole and I didn’t get it done.”

This week’s Workday Charity Open is the first of back-to-back events at the Jack Nicklaus designed Dublin, Ohio course. The Nicklaus-hosted Memorial will follow next week.

After rain, wind and lightning led to two suspensions on Friday, organizers decided to move the tee times up on Sunday to avoid any more weather delays.

Morikawa started Sunday’s round three shots back after opening with a 65 and 66 to lead the first and second rounds.

He quickly fought his way back to the top of the leaderboard with two birdies and an eagle in his first five holes.

He made three more birdies on the back nine including the par-4 17. Morikawa used an eight iron to spin his approach shot to eight feet then made the putt and celebrated with a fist pump.

His only blemish came on the par-4 13th when he made bogey as he closed with a 4-under 66.

The most dramatic moment of the round came on the first playoff hole as both players rolled in massive putts for birdies.

Thomas went first, making a 50-foot downhill putt for what appeared to be the victory. But Morikawa wasn’t going anywhere. He stayed alive by draining his putt, from just inside 25 feet, to send it back to the 18th tee for a second playoff hole.

Morikawa sealed the win on the 75th hole, two putting on the green after Thomas missed the fairway off the tee and had to chip out from behind a small tree with his second shot.

The win was Morikawa’s second in just his 24th start as a pro.