When a combination of Bournemouth’s Steve Cook and the woodwork somehow conspired to prevent Raheem Sterling’s 27th minute goal-bound effort from hitting the back of the net at the Vitality Stadium on Monday, you could have been forgiven for thinking it wasn’t going to be the 22-year-old’s night.
But a good goal-scorer is someone who laughs in the face of misfortune, picks themselves up and gets back in the race and before long, Sterling found himself between the two posts again.
Leroy Sane was once again the provider and Steve Cook was once again involved, but this time Sterling made no mistake from close range to give City a vital lead and grab his sixth league goal of the season, equaling his tally for the whole of the previous campaign.
Poor Bournemouth must absolutely detest coming up against the England winger. Sterling has won all five games he’s played against the Cherries, scoring seven goals (including his first Premier League hat-trick last season) and assisting two others. In fact, he’s scored more Premier League goals against Eddie Howe’s side than any other and he must surely wish he could play them every week.
Sterling’s last goal in all competitions came against Crystal Palace in the FA Cup recently but before Monday night, he hadn’t scored in the Premier League since he bagged the winner against Arsenal almost two months ago.
“I am always trying to get on the scoresheet, it doesn't always happen,” he said after the game and hopefully, this goal will give him the confidence to make it happen more often.
But Sterling’s performance in this game was about more than just his goal. According to SAP, the City MatchDay app users’ Man of the Match made two key passes, 93 sprints and completed 86% of his passes, something which will no doubt have impressed his manager greatly.
City’s number 7 could often be found hugging the right touchline and stretching a tight pitch to its absolute limit. He was a constant outlet for a big switch in play but also popped up on the left and in the centre from time-to-time. Sterling is an intelligent off-the-ball mover and any youngsters watching will have witnessed a masterclass in the form on Monday night.
And it was his individual brilliance that sealed the deal for his team in the second half. Cutting in from the left flank and utilising the same step-over manoeuvre which bewitched and beguiled his opposite number when he scored at Swansea earlier in the season, Sterling created space for himself, crossed into a dangerous area and the ball found its way into the back of the net.
There may have been some doubt about who exactly scored the goal, but there was absolutely no doubt about who provided it.
Amidst all the not-un-justified hype surrounding Gabriel Jesus and Leroy Sane’s performances in recent weeks, it’s been easy to overlook the fact that another extremely promising youngster has been quietly going about his business in a City shirt.
A goal, an assist and a match-winning display at Bournemouth was a timely reminder that if you disregard Raheem Sterling, you do so at your peril.