Manchester City were left top of the Premier League heading into the international break, following a 3-1 win at home to West Ham United on Sunday.
While there was plenty of excitement at Eastlands, the same could not be said of Sunday’s earlier clash between two of the league’s lesser lights as West Bromwich Albion and Middlesbrough played out a dispiriting goalless draw at The Hawthorns.
Raheem Sterling may have become the poster boy for England’s woeful Euro 2016 campaign, which culminated in the embarrassment of a defeat by Iceland, but there was no denying the City forward’s class as he scored twice against the Hammers at Eastlands.
Sterling finished off a slick move in the seventh minute to put City 1-0 up before Fernandinho doubled their lead when he headed in a Kevin De Bruyne free-kick 11 minutes later from seven yards out.
City could easily have scored a third goal before Michail Antonio’s header in the 57th minute gave West Ham an unexpected lifeline.
But with City’s lead reduced to 2-1, Sterling put the result beyond doubt when he collected David Silva’s through-ball late in the game and rolled the ball in from an acute angle.
“Reborn? I keep seeing that word,” Sterling told Sky Sports. “It was a difficult first season at a new club but the manager Pep Guardiola has come in and given me a lot of courage and authority to go forward. He even had a go at me for not dribbling as much.”
City now lead the table on goal difference from Chelsea and Manchester United, who’ve also made a perfect played three, won three start to the Premier League season.
“When you see how many chances we create, they scored with their first chance,” Guardiola told Sky Sports.
“They jumped more than us but we played a good game. Our fans enjoyed it and we are happy,” added the Spaniard, who said he did not see an incident in which Sergio Aguero appeared to elbow West Ham’s Winston Reid.
Meanwhile, Hammers boss Slaven Bilic lamented his side’s start to the match.
“We did not start well and straight away they (City) had a couple of corners and then scored,” he said.
As for Aguero’s clash with Reid, Bilic added: “I did not see the Sergio Aguero incident. We were going to change the centre-half anyway to go four at the back.”
Elsewhere, West Brom manager Tony Pulis was keen to freshen up his squad before the transfer window closes on Wednesday, after a forgettable stalemate with Middlesbrough.
“We have to bring some players in…we need new blood,” he said.
Boro manager Aitor Karanka was pleased by his newly-promoted side’s first clean sheet of the season as they maintained their unbeaten start to the league campaign after a sluggish start against the Baggies.
“I didn’t like the first 15 or 20 minutes, we didn’t play well and didn’t play with the spirit we have to play with,” said Karanka.
“The reaction in the second half was better. One thing we cannot lose is our spirit.”