MELBOURNE: Record signing Raheem Sterling took just over two minutes to score his debut goal as Manchester City downed AS Roma on penalties in the International Champions Cup in Melbourne yesterday. England goalkeeper Joe Hart made two late saves as Manchester City won 5-4 in the penalty shootout after the game finished 2-2 at the end of regulation time at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Sterling, the most expensive English footballer in history, took just two minutes and 17 seconds to open his account for the big-spending English club.
He showed his explosive pace to swoop on a defence-splitting pass from Kelechi Iheanacho to leave Roma goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis flailing and slot the ball into the empty net. While Sterling’s much-anticipated first appearance in the sky blue was the major talking point, the 2014 English Premier League champions showed plenty of attacking promise for the season ahead. “It’s important to score, particularly early in the game, and he only played 45 minutes after having just a few days working with the team,” manager Manuel Pellegrini said of Sterling’s performance. “I’m happy with the way he played. He demonstrated why he’s here, not only his value as a player, he’s a very young player so I think he will improve a lot in the future, playing with Yaya Toure, David Silva and the others. “I’m very happy with him and I’m very happy that we’ve bought him.” The 20-year-old Jamaicanborn Londoner completed his move to Manchester City from Liverpool last week in a five-year deal worth an initial £44 million that could rise to £49 million ($76 million). The Italians equalised just five minutes after Sterling’s strike in spectacular fashion.
Bosnian midfielder Miralem Pjanic let fly with a 20-metre thunderbolt into the top right corner. Sterling had a big shout for a penalty turned down when he was brought down by Alessandro Florenzi midway through the opening half, but Australian referee Jared Gillett waved play on. Roma had three quickfire scoring chances minutes before the break, with Vincent Kompany lunging to deny Francesco Totti, Eliaquim Mangala clearing another and unmarked Daniele De Rossi putting a header over the bar. Pellegrini took Sterling off at halftime along with the influential David Silva among nine changes, introducing Samir Nasri, Aleksandar Kolarov and Yaya Toure into the game.
Nigerian teenager Iheanacho put Manchester City ahead again on 51 minutes when he zeroed in on an awful back pass by former England international Ashley Cole to coolly beat De Sanctis from close range. But Serbian Adem Ljajic threw the Italians a lifeline when he beat Joe Hart with his free-kick over the wall in the 87th minute to send the match into penalties. Hart proved Man City’s hero, with saves off Seydou Doumbia and Seydou Keita to get the English club home. “We made an individual mistake in the second half and we had to make up for it, but what I appreciated the most was that we were able to come back from behind twice, which means that we are mentally strong,” said Roma manager Rudi Garcia. “The pitch was not good enough for such a game at this level and of course it’s winter (in Australia) but it was more than difficult and in some way explains Cole’s mistake with the wrong pass. “But overall, Cole played a good match and the players should not be judged by one single play. Of course, I would have preferred if he did not make that mistake and probably goalkeeper Morgan could have done better in that situation.” Manchester City will attempt to go on and win the three-way ICC tournament when they take on ten-time European champions Real Madrid in the final match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Friday. Roma beat Real Madrid 7-6 on penalties after the opening ICC game finished scoreless at the MCG on Saturday.—AFP