Stoke 1-4 Manchester City: Sergio Aguero and Nolito score brace to give Pep Guardiola's side victory
Sergio Aguero and Nolito both struck twice as Manchester City beat Stoke 4-1 in the Premier League to maintain Pep Guardiola's perfect start as manager.
The prolific Aguero took his tally for the season to six in three games with a penalty and header in the first half before new signing Nolito made sure of victory at the bet365 Stadium with a late double.
Stoke had made it 2-1 with a Bojan penalty early in the second half, but the Potters were unable to force an equaliser and substitute Nolito finished them off with two in the last four minutes.
Manchester City, with Joe Hart again on the bench and Yaya Toure again omitted from the matchday squad, were highly impressive for most of the first period.
Their intensity slipped after the break but, although Stoke boss Mark Hughes may quibble over some of referee Mike Dean's decisions, they were good value for their victory.
The visitors were straight on the front foot with Aguero firing across the face of goal and Raheem Sterling - booed by the Stoke fans, presumably after his poor summer with England - curling a shot narrowly over.
But as good as City looked going forward, there were still vulnerabilities at the back and they were caught out after one of centre-back John Stones' forays forward.
Marko Arnautovic broke clear but he mis-hit his shot and Joe Allen drove a follow-up attempt over the bar. Allen had another chance when Bojan slipped him through on goal but Nicolas Otamendi blocked.
Guardiola's side responded with a quick break of their own but Sterling, this time starting on the left, shot tamely. Their breakthrough came in the 27th minute after Ryan Shawcross was penalised for holding Otamendi in the area. Aguero, despite missing twice from the spot in midweek, retained penalty-taking duties and sent former Manchester City goalkeeper Shay Given the wrong way.
Aguero doubled his tally from another dead-ball situation after 36 minutes, this time rising to meet a Kevin De Bruyne free-kick with a powerful header.
Stoke could have had one back after a frantic passage of play shortly before the interval. First Phil Bardsley connected with a fierce volley which Willy Caballero blocked, Mame Biram Diouf heading wide in the ensuing scramble. Amid all that, Allen went down under a challenge from Aleksandar Kolarov and seemed unlucky not to be awarded a penalty.
But the Potters were awarded a spot-kick for less early in the second half after Sterling was harshly adjudged to have impeded Shawcross at a corner by referee Dean. Bojan made the most of the opportunity and rifled home from 12 yards.
Guardiola's men became far more ragged after this and lost the precision of passing with which they controlled most of the first half.
Yet Stoke could not take advantage and struggled to create chances. Jon Walters went down in the area after a Sterling challenge but, much to Hughes' frustration, nothing was given by Dean.
The visitors made sure of victory four minutes from time when Kelechi Iheanacho won possession and took the ball round Given to set up a tap-in for fellow substitute Nolito.
Nolito claimed another in stoppage time after a fine run from Sterling.
Story of the match
Sergio Aguero and Nolito both struck twice as Manchester City beat Stoke 4-1 in the Premier League to maintain Pep Guardiola's winning start as manager.
The prolific Aguero took his tally for the season to six goals in three games with a penalty and header in the first half, before new signing Nolito made sure of victory at the bet365 Stadium with a late double.
Stoke had made it 2-1 with a Bojan Krkic penalty early in the second half but the Potters were unable to force an equaliser and substitute Nolito finished them off with two in the last four minutes.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
"Pep has #sterling marking Shawcross hahahaha! dont like these new rules...a non contact sport its becoming!" - former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand questioned the award of Stoke's penalty.
The Argentinian's goal glut at the beginning of the season continued with a first-half double which took his tally to six in three games under the Pep Guardiola regime.
His first came from the penalty spot in a moment which contained plenty of pressure after his pair of misses from 12 yards in the Champions League in midweek, and his second was a fine header, an under-rated part of Aguero's game.
A special mention must go to David Silva, who is among those that appears to have been reinvigorated by Guardiola's arrival after a below-par season by his high standards.
For the second Saturday lunchtime in a row, Mike Dean was the talk of social media. If it is not his flamboyant arms causing a stir, it is his controversial decision-making, and the man in the middle at the bet365 Stadium ensured he was the centre of attention again by giving two penalties.
The first, for Ryan Shawcross' grab of Nicolas Otamendi's arm, appeared fair, even if other officials may have let it pass. The second against Raheem Sterling, who made minimal contact with Shawcross when facing away from the ball, was far more debatable. In-between, Dean missed perhaps the most blatant of the three fouls when Aleksandar Kolarov clattered into Joe Allen.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
Giannelli Imbula's gloves. While it was warmer in Staffordshire earlier in this late August week, the thermostat in Stoke was still pushing the high teens amid the wind.
Only Bojan Krkic and David Silva saw fit to wear long-sleeved garments among the starting outfield players and Imbula strangely paired his handwear with a short-sleeved top. If he thinks it is chilly now, wait until the winter-window signing samples a cold Stoke Tuesday night in December.
Shay Given 6
Erik Pieters 5
Ryan Shawcross 5
Philipp Wollscheid 5
Phil Bardsley 6
Glenn Whelan 6
Joe Allen 7
Marko Arnautovic 7
Giannelli Imbula 6
Bojan Krkic 7
Mame Biram Diouf 6
Jonathan Walters (for Imbula) 6
Ramadan Sobhi (for Arnautovic) 6
Willy Caballero 7
Aleksandar Kolarov 7
John Stones 7
Nicolas Otamendi 6
Pablo Zabaleta 6
David Silva 8
Raheem Sterling 7
Kevin De Bruyne 7
Jesus Navas 6
Sergio Aguero 8
Nolito (for Navas) 8
Kelechi Iheanacho (for Aguero) 7
Delph (for De Bruyne) 6
WHO'S UP NEXT?
Stevenage v Stoke (EFL Cup, August 23)
Manchester City v Steaua Bucharest (Champions League, August 24)
Belfast Telegraph Digital