Super Sterling roars through gears to net treble in City revival
Man City 5 Atalanta 1
Raheem Sterling grabbed a quickfire second-half hat-trick as 10-man Manchester City thrashed Atalanta 5-1 to put one foot in the Champions League knockout stages.
The England forward struck three times in the space of 11 minutes after Sergio Aguero had netted twice to cancel out Ruslan Malinovsky's penalty opener for the visitors at the Etihad Stadium.
City's victory lifted them five points clear at the top of Group C with three games still to play but there were downsides.
Phil Foden, who otherwise had a fine game, was sent off for two bookable offences and Rodri hobbled off injured.
Manager Pep Guardiola may be also concerned about a sluggish start which allowed Atalanta to make a lot of the early running.
City were stung after 28 minutes as Fernandinho, again playing in a makeshift central defensive partnership with Rodri, brought Josip Ilicic down just inside the area. Malinovskyi sent Ederson the wrong way from the resulting spot-kick.
City responded well and were back level within six minutes as Sterling ran across the edge of the box and clipped in a cross for Aguero to calmly tap past Gollini.
The hosts then stepped up a gear and soon claimed the lead with a penalty of their own after Sterling was brought down by Andrea Masiello following another weaving run.
Aguero stroked home the spot-kick.
City lost Rodri just before the break with what looked like a hamstring injury but they at least had a specialist defensive replacement in John Stones.
City took a firm grip on the game with a fine team goal just before the hour. Riyad Mahrez released Kevin De Bruyne and he burst into the area to feed Foden, who in turn teed up Sterling for an emphatic finish.
Sterling struck again soon after as he raced onto a defence-splitting Ilkay Gundogan pass and fired home.
Remo Freuler put the ball in the net for Atalanta but was ruled offside before Sterling completed his treble by turning home an inviting Mahrez cross.
City's night ended on a bad note as Foden, booked harshly moments earlier for a foul, was shown a second yellow card and then a red for pulling back Marten De Roon.
Man City: Ederson, Walker, Rodri (Stones 41), Fernandinho, Mendy (Cancelo 71), De Bruyne (Otamendi 67), Gundogan, Mahrez, Foden, Sterling, Aguero.
Subs not used: Bravo, Jesus, B Silva, D Silva.
Atalanta: Gollini, Toloi, Djimsiti, Masiello (Pasalic 46), Castagne, De Roon, Freuler, Gosens, Malinovskiy, Gomez (Muriel 45), Ilicic (Hateboer 72). Subs not used: Lopes, Da Silva, Sportiello, Barrow.
Man of the match: Sterling
Match rating: 8/10
Referee: Orel Grinfeld (Israel)