RAHEEM STERLING is the best player in the Premier League.
On current form, quality and sheer ruthlessness, the Englishman is at the peak of his powers at 24.
Gareth Southgate will be wishing there was a major tournament this summer – because Sterling would have been the star.
All three of his goals at the London Stadium showed why he is the first name on Pep Guardiola’s team sheet.
His second, an outrageous lob over Lukasz Fabianski, baffled everyone inside the ground, other than Sterling.
He had looked a yard offside, but was instead a cigarette paper ON – as shown by a VAR check.
His other two finishes, both from one-on-one situations, proved that he is the perfect attacker to feed when City overload an opposing defence.
Sterling played the same position as he did during his two-goal FA Cup final, but spends most of his time inside the width of the 18-yard box.
After a frustrating first 50 minutes, Kevin de Bruyne’s brilliant driving run and pass straight into his path gave him a textbook finish.
Just two minutes later, it was he who started the move of the game, as he played the ball into David Silva, made the run for a one-two and then squared it to Jesus for 3-0.
But it wasn’t – VAR showed Sterling’s shoulder was a millimetre offside – and that was the first goal outlawed by the new technology in the Premier League.
IT’S HEEM AGAIN
In a personal battle with the shiny new tech, Sterling then – looking well offside – was proven to be on for a lob to make it 3-0.
Meanwhile, Jesus showed he is no Sergio Aguero… yet.
But being in the right place at the right time shows he is nearly ready to be the leading lad.
The Brazilian, 22, found his composure again after his teary sending off in the Copa America final a month ago, for the opening goal.
This will be, without doubt, a massive season for him, especially given Leroy Sane’s ACL injury.
His flick, from Issa Diop’s deflection showed Guardiola’s champions are the best at feeding off scraps inside the box.
After another record transfer window when English teams spent £1.41BILLION on transfers, it seemed appropriate that the first Saturday game of the season started with a song about blowing bubbles.
Early on, City seemed to pop, rather than explode into life in East London, but the chemistry between their front three was a champagne supernova.
Sterling was on the left, with Riyad Mahrez on the right and Jesus in the middle.
Their shifting and shuffling was shown by Mahrez’s clever drop off for the opener and wonderfully-weighted ball into the channel, as Kyle Walker bombed on to cross for Jesus.
It was Mahrez who should have scored on 21 minutes, swivelling his hips and leaving Cresswell nowhere, but he hooked it into the side netting.
By Alex Terrell at London Stadium
THE biggest critics of VAR have shifted their ire from its simple existence, to lamenting the confusing, emotion-killing fan experience.
And they are right to do so – but it can be changed so easily.
There are monstrous screens behind both goals at the London 2012 stadium.
But neither showed what happened in either incident where Raheem Sterling was offside, then onside, nor the bizarre re-taken penalty, nor Michail Antonio’s reviewed ‘elbow’ on Aymeric Laporte.
It turned out that all the decisions were correct, but nobody knew why.
The Lukasz Fabianski incident was even more confusing.
He didn’t have his foot on the line when the kick, which he saved, was taken. But virtually nobody in the stadium saw that.
As Sterling said after the game: “At the end of the day, as long as the decision is right, that is all that matters.”
True for the players, but it’s time to stop insulting fans’ intelligence and show them what is going on there and then.
Rugby union will prove, once again, during next month’s World Cup, that they have their version – called TMO – just right.
Referees are mic’d up and it is broadcast and show in the stadium. Who loses out? Nobody.
It’s time for football to follow the egg-shaped ball.
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Then the Algerian’s fleet footwork hoodwinked Issa Diop, whose clumsy lunge gave Aguero the chance to make it 4-0, which was saved – but then re-taken and converted.
After another VAR delay, City fans were singing “what the f*** is going on? before Sterling completed his hat-trick in extra time.
Don’t worry lads and ladies, Pep knows exactly what is going on.