Home English Raheem Stirling hat-trick keeps Man City title march in step

Raheem Stirling hat-trick keeps Man City title march in step

Raheem Stirling hat-trick keeps Man City title march in step

Norwich City 0 Manchester City 4

Raheem Sterling hit a hat-trick to continue his fine form against Norwich as Manchester City eased to victory at Carrow Road and moved 12 points clear at the top of the Premier League.

With closest challengers Liverpool not in action until Sunday, Pep Guardiola was able to make five changes and still see his league leaders record a comfortable 4-0 win.

The visitors created plenty of chances before Sterling curled home a fine opener, Phil Foden then doubling the lead early in the second half.

Sterling headed in his second of the night from close-range and completed his hat-trick by tapping home after seeing a last-minute penalty saved.

Guardiola shuffled his pack, Fernandinho captaining the visitors as he made just a sixth league start of the season while Ilkay Gündogan returned, with three changes at the back as Kyle Walker, Nathan Ake and Oleksandr Zinchenko were recalled.

There was no place in the squad for Jack Grealish, though, Guardiola confirming a shin injury had sidelined the England man.

The defeat ends a run of four unbeaten across all competitions for Dean Smith’s men, who remain in the bottom three as a result and face a trip to Anfield next weekend.

There were warning signs for the home side in the opening five minutes as Foden scored at the third time of asking only to be flagged offside before Bernardo Silva’s strike came back off the inside of the post and into the grasp of Angus Gunn, who then held a Gündogan header as City looked to strike early.

Teemu Pukki stung the palms of Ederson on a rare foray forward but it was almost relentless pressure from the visitors, as Sterling fluffed his lines at the back post following a Silva cross.

Norwich, though, looked impressive when they did attack as skipper Grant Hanley headed against the post with Ederson beaten.

Gunn was keeping City at bay at the other end, using his feet to save from Sterling – but the Norwich goalkeeper could not do it all alone.

Possession was given away on the edge of their own box as City worked the ball to Sterling – this time his curling finish was far out of the reach of Gunn as the visitors went ahead on the half hour.

Riyad Mahrez had scored in each of his last seven games but was the next to see a strike saved by Gunn as Norwich went in a half-time with hope they could still rescue something from the game.

Those hopes were soon dashed as Foden doubled the lead just two minutes after the interval, eventually turning in a Gündogan cross despite Hanley’s best efforts to clear off the line.

Norwich continued to show heart but the game was ended as a contest when Sterling drifted in unmarked to head in a Ruben Dias knockdown for his second of the evening with 20 minutes still remaining.

City took the sting out of the game in the closing stages, Guardiola able to take off Silva, Foden and Mahrez with an eye on Tuesday’s Champions League round of 16 clash against Sporting.

But there was still time for Sterling to claim the match ball, pouncing on the rebound after his penalty had been saved by Gunn with Andre Marriner pointing to the spot following a challenge on substitute James McAtee.

Neal Maupay celebrates with teammates Adam Lallana and Marc Cucurella.. Photograph: Steve Bardens/Getty Images
Neal Maupay celebrates with teammates Adam Lallana and Marc Cucurella.. Photograph: Steve Bardens/Getty Images

Watford 0 Brighton 2

Neal Maupay and Adam Webster were on target as Brighton saw off a Watford side yet to score a goal under new manager Roy Hodgson.

In a game of few chances, Maupay volleyed past Ben Foster just before the break to give the Seagulls a deserved advantage before Webster poked the ball home 10 minutes from time to make it 2-0.

The Hornets went into the weekend in the 19th place but much of the early optimism after Hodgson guided the club to a first clean sheet in the league this term with a 0-0 draw in his opening match at Burnley appears to be fading.

Watford have now yet to score in the three matches since the former England manager took the helm and have just one point to show for it.

Brighton, however, moved closer to consolidating their place in the top half of the table and remain unbeaten in the Premier League since December 15.

Foster was called into action early on as he made a low save to deny Jakub Moder from 15 yards in the seventh minute.

Brighton maintained their early pressure, with Pascal Gross heading a Moder cross over the bar while Maupay tried his luck from distance and forced Foster to palm the ball away.

Watford had a chance after Emmanuel Dennis was brought down just outside the box by Lewis Dunk, but Dennis sent the free-kick well over the bar.

Just before half-time, Maupay broke the deadlock. Tariq Lamptey fired in a cross and Maupay volleyed it first time into the far corner.

Ismaila Sarr was introduced at half-time in one of two changes made at the break by Hodgson and the Senegal international, who had only taken part in training for the first time on Friday following his Africa Cup Of Nations success, looked to get forward and create chances on his first appearance for Watford since November.

Watford’s best chance of the match came in the 63rd minute when Dennis worked his way into a promising position before unleashing a shot which rattled off the crossbar.

Shortly after, Watford had to be alert to block a Moder cross after the ball ricocheted around the box before falling to the Brighton midfielder, but his shot was blocked.

Marc Cucurella also had a chance to double his side’s lead but his drive from distance was saved by Foster, who had to use his legs to deny the defender.

Brighton’s second came with less than 10 minutes remaining in the match when Webster was able to poke the ball into the back of the net from close range following an Alexis Mac Allister corner.

New signing Christian Eriksen of Brentford acknowledges the fans prior to the game. Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
New signing Christian Eriksen of Brentford acknowledges the fans prior to the game. Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Brentford 0 Crystal Palace 0

Christian Eriksen got the biggest cheer of the day before Brentford were held to a goalless draw by Crystal Palace.

Eriksen was introduced to the Bees supporters on the pitch ahead of kick-off, eight months to the day since his cardiac arrest at Euro 2020.

The Denmark international, who has signed a six-month deal with Brentford, is expected to play in a behind-closed-doors friendly next week before a potential debut at Arsenal next Saturday.

On this evidence that first appearance cannot come too soon after a bore draw crying out for someone of Eriksen’s creativity and craft.

Brentford did at least end a run of five straight defeats to leave Palace still searching for their first league win of 2022.

The hosts looked the most likely to make the breakthrough, with Christian Norgaard firing over early on before Rico Henry’s drive was deflected over by Joachim Andersen.

Brentford felt they should have been awarded a 15th-minute penalty when the ball struck the out-stretched arm of Palace defender Marc Guehi at a corner, but despite a VAR check nothing was given.

Then Sergi Canos played Bryan Mbeumo in behind with a clever through-ball, with Eagles keeper Vicente Guaita quickly off his line to make the block.

But Thomas Frank’s side have conceded the opening goal in 16 of their past 17 Premier League games and they nearly did so again on the half-hour mark after a mistake by Norgaard, who played a blind back-pass straight to Odsonne Edouard.

The French forward’s through-ball sent Jordan Ayew racing through on goal but he shanked his effort into the side-netting.

Wilfried Zaha took time out from his running battle with Canos to fire in a shot which David Raya held and Canos headed Mbeumo’s cross wide before half-time.

After the break Bees substitute Josh Dasilva’s low centre just evaded Mbeumo before Andersen hacked it clear, and Guaita pulled off a fine reaction save to keep out Pontus Jansson’s header.

Canos was perhaps lucky to escape a second yellow card for body-checking Zaha into touch as the game descended into niggly foul after niggly foul.

Eagles boss Patrick Vieira sent on Jean-Philippe Mateta and Michael Olise in a bid to pep up his labouring attack, but Zaha squandered their best chance when he took a touch from Conor Gallagher’s cross rather than shooting.

Zaha took a late tumble in the area which came to nothing and Raya saved in stoppage time from Andersen.

But in a match where defences were on top, neither side was able to muster a winner to leave Palace still with only one away victory to their name this season.

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