LONDON: Manchester City's Ukrainian midfielder Oleksandr Zinchenko (CR) tackles West Ham United's Argentinian midfielder Manuel Lanzini (CL) during the English Premier League football match between West Ham United and Manchester City at The London Stadium, in east London yesterday. - AFP

Manchester City made a flying start to their Premier League title defence as
Raheem Sterling's hat-trick inspired a 5-0 demolition of West Ham yesterday.
Pep Guardiola's side are bidding to become just the second club in the Premier
League era to win three successive titles. And after Liverpool laid down an
early marker with a 4-1 win against Norwich in the season's opening game on
Friday, the champions responded with a swaggering display of their own at the London

Brazil forward
Gabriel Jesus opened the scoring to repay Guardiola's faith after the City
manager picked him instead of the club's record goalscorer Sergio Aguero. Then
Sterling took over, replicating his dynamic form of last season with a two
classy finishes. Substitute Aguero bagged City's fourth with a penalty after
his first effort from the spot was saved, only for VAR to call for a retake
after Lukasz Fabianski came off his line too soon. Sterling wrapped up his
treble in the final moments as City showed they have no intention of conceding
any early ground to European champions Liverpool, who finished just one point
behind them last term.

Guardiola had
admitted before kick-off that City might have to do even better than last
season to fend off Liverpool. This was the perfect start as City made it nine
successive opening-day wins. City had won all four of their previous visits to
the London Stadium by an aggregate score of 17-1, netting at least four goals
in each match, and once again they ran riot at West Ham's expense.

Guardiola handed
a first Premier League start to club-record signing Rodri and the Spain
midfielder showed signs of nerves when he allowed Manuel Lanzini to rob him in
his own penalty area. But it was a rare stumble from City's impressive new boy
and the champions were soon into their stride.

Riyad Mahrez,
surprisingly selected ahead of Bernardo Silva, produced City's first menacing
moment when the Algeria winger cut in from the right flank for a long-range
strike that Fabianski pushed away. When City's opening goal came in the 25th
minute, it was the kind of incisive raid that has left so many opponents
helpless over the last two years.

Mahrez slipped a
perfectly-weighted pass to Kyle Walker and the right-back accelerated away from
Aaron Cresswell. Walker whipped over a cross that deflected off West Ham
defender Issa Diop into the path of Jesus and he instinctively turned the ball
past Fabianski from close range.

Jesus should have
doubled City's lead but he shot straight at Fabianski on the stroke of
half-time. There was no need for City to rue that miss as they struck six
minutes after the interval. Kevin De Bruyne was the catalyst, the Belgian
midfielder showing what City missed during his long injury lay-offs last season
as he left several West Ham players trailing in his wake before making a
precise pass that set up Sterling's clinical finish.

City were denied
a third goal when Jesus's tap-in from Sterling's cross became the first goal to
be disallowed by VAR in the Premier League for an extremely marginal offside
against the England winger. A brilliant double save from Ederson denied Javier
Hernandez and Manuel Lanzini before Sterling put the result beyond doubt in the
75th minute. Mahrez clipped a pass to Sterling and he turned to loft a delicate
chip over Fabianski, with City this time able to celebrate after another VAR
review for offside.

VAR is being used
in the Premier League for the first time this season and its constant
interruptions aided City in the 86th minute. Mahrez won a penalty after being
fouled by Diop, but Aguero's initial shot was saved by Fabianski before VAR
called for a retake that the Argentine stroked home. Sterling sealed City's
five-star display in stoppage-time with a composed finish from Mahrez's pass. -