Manchester City 5-1 Atalanta: Raheem Sterling scores Champions League hat-trick

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Sterling has scored 16 goals in 17 appearances for club and country this season

Raheem Sterling scored an 11-minute second-half hat-trick as Manchester City ruthlessly demolished Atalanta to maintain their 100% start in Champions League Group C.

This turned into another emphatic statement of City's attacking power but it was a far from perfect evening for Pep Guardiola with Rodri limping off with a hamstring injury and Phil Foden sent off for the first time in his career for two late bookings.

There was another reminder of City's current defensive vulnerability too, when a Ruslan Malinovskyi penalty gave Atalanta a surprise lead after Fernandinho clumsily fouled Josip Ilicic.

City, who began with an unfamiliar three-man defence, had shown some early uncertainty at the back and took time to get into their stride going forward.

But Sergio Aguero quickly levelled from close range when he ran on to Sterling's in-swinging cross and the Argentine fired City ahead from the spot before half-time after Sterling was fouled by Andrea Masiello.

Sterling took over goalscoring duties after the break, firstly when he rounded off a fine move involving Riyad Mahrez, Kevin de Bruyne and Foden.

By now Atalanta's defence had completely crumbled and Sterling soon took full advantage, running on to an Ilkay Gundogan pass and cutting inside past Rafael Toloi before finding the net.

Five minutes later Sterling made it 5-1 when he ran on to a Mahrez cross, and he should have added to his tally before the end when he fired wide after running clear.

Foden, making only his second start of the season, saw red eight minutes from time after being booked for dragging back Marten de Roon as he shaped to shoot.

The 19-year-old's first yellow card had come six minutes earlier when he tangled with Malinovskyi in midfield, and appeared harsh.

It remains to be seen how serious Rodri's injury is, but Guardiola showed his frustration as John Stones prepared to replace him, slamming the back of one of the seats in his dugout.

He did have some good news, however. Shakhtar Donetsk's draw with Dinamo Zagreb earlier on Tuesday means a win in Italy when these two sides meet again on 6 November will seal City's progress to the last 16 for a seventh successive year.

City still have defensive difficulties

Earlier this week Guardiola called on his side to be more clinical in front of goal if they are to go deep into the competition this season, but it is their displays at the back that should be a more pressing concern.

Although he had two centre-halves on his bench in the shape of Stones and Nicolas Otamendi, Guardiola opted to play with three at the back against Atalanta, with a converted midfielder, Fernandinho, at the heart of his new-look backline and Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy on either side.

Rodri and Gundogan were supposed to give protection in the centre of midfield but the experiment did not work, with Atalanta finding all sorts of space down both flanks.

By the time the Italian side took the lead, City had already survived one scare when Robin Gosens escaped down the left and Timothy Castagne headed over from six yards.

A better team would have punished City, and Guardiola must go back to the drawing board to find the answer at the back, while any absence to Rodri will also give him a problem to solve in midfield.

Man of the match: Raheem Sterling

He scored three and, if you count the penalty he won, made two and there were times when the Atalanta defence did not seem to know how to stop him when he ran at them.

What next?

It is back to the Premier League for City and they can narrow the gap on leaders Liverpool to three points – for 24 hours at least – when they host Aston Villa at 12:30 BST on Saturday.

More to follow.

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