Raheem Sterling leads Manchester City’s safe passage at Preston

The Guardian Sports 1 month ago

Manchester City could not repeat their eight-goal haul from the weekend against a side sitting third in the Championship but after making nine changes from the Watford glut Pep Guardiola was happy enough with three first-half goals against Preston.

City handed a debut to 17-year-old Taylor Harwood-Bellis in his quest to explore all the centre-back options the club currently have, a back line that also included Angelino making his first full start and another teenager in Eric Garcia. Their manager was full of praise. “We can count on some extraordinary players,” Guardiola said. “We took the match seriously as always and, thanks to the young guys, we are through to the next round. The back four know each other from the academy and they combined perfectly.”

If Harwood-Bellis looked mature beyond his years in defence, Raheem Sterling was the star of the attacking show, his goal in particular a classy run straight at the heart of the Preston defence with a couple of neat feints as he entered the area to buy himself more space.

Josh Harrop could not quite reach an inviting Ryan Ledson cross with the first chance of the game in the opening minute and the same player struck an upright in the second half. But by that stage City had scored all their goals and were cruising. Sterling and David Silva helped set up Gabriel Jesus for the second, then Preston’s goalkeeper, Connor Ripley, was beaten by a deflection off his own defender as Ledson’s touch sent David Silva’s relatively innocuous cross into the net.

Phil Foden hit the bar in the second half, again after an enterprising run from Sterling, and when the England player was withdrawn shortly before the end he was applauded from all sides of the ground. Sterling had brought a good save from Ripley in the first half, just before Jesus headed narrowly over from a David Silva cross to the far post.

Preston had made several changes too and their manager, Alex Neil, thought his players performed well but perhaps paid the penalty for being a little too adventurous against top-class opponents. “We did all right, we didn’t disappoint, if anything we got a bit too hungry going forward and left gaps for City to exploit,” Neil said. “They scored some quality goals.”

Guardiola defended Bernardo Silva when asked about his reaction to the news that the FA may discipline him over his allegedly racist tweet to his teammate Benjamin Mendy. “If they are going to do that, I think they need to know what sort of a person Bernardo is,” the City manager said.

“I honestly don’t know what will happen but Bernardo is one of the loveliest people I have ever met in my life, he speaks four or five languages and Mendy is one of his best friends. They are like brothers and the response from Mendy was clear; it was a joke all the time. I’ve seen many similar situations with white people and in any case the image is not about the colour of skin.

“Bernardo is an exceptional person, completely open-minded about nationalities and skin colour. I think the authorities should put their focus on another issue because they don’t know which guy they are talking about.”

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