Pep Guardiola hailed Raheem Sterling as an “extraordinary” talent after his 11-minute second-half hat-trick helped Manchester City demolish Atalanta and maintain their 100% start in Champions League Group C.
Sterling is City’s leading scorer with 12 goals in 13 games in all competitions this season and this latest ruthless display demonstrated again what a potent finisher he has become.
Guardiola feels there is even more to his game than just his goalscoring however, explaining afterwards: “His physicality is incredible. He is strong – the day after the game, he could play another game – his regeneration is incredible.
“He can play both sides and he is fast so, defensively, he helps us a lot. He is an extraordinary, extraordinary player.”
Sterling’s treble, which followed a first-half Sergio Aguero double, turned this game into another emphatic statement of City’s attacking power but it was a far from perfect evening for Guardiola.
Rodri limped off with a hamstring injury before half-time and Phil Foden was sent off for the first time in his career for two late bookings.
Meanwhile Tottenham Hotspur finally kick-started their Champions League campaign in style by overwhelming Red Star Belgrade.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side needed to produce a response after they were thrashed 7-2 at home by Bayern Munich in their last Group B game and after losing a two-goal lead to draw with Olympiakos in the opening round of matches.
And they secured their first win in emphatic fashion as an early header from Harry Kane and two smart finishes from Son Heung-min gave them a three-goal advantage by half-time.
Red Star, who were backed by a large group of fans despite Uefa restrictions imposed after incidents of racism at a qualifier against HJK Helsinki in July, had no answer as Erik Lamela scored a fourth and Kane added another.
It was a performance and a scoreline to give Pochettino and Spurs a much-needed injection of confidence after their indifferent start to the season, and before Sunday’s daunting visit to Premier League leaders Liverpool.
And in Turkey, Real Madrid collected their first Champions League victory of the season at Galatasaray to ease the pressure on manager Zinedine Zidane.
The La Liga side suffered a shock league defeat against Mallorca at the weekend and had failed to win their opening two group games, with reports in Spain suggesting Frenchman Zidane could be sacked if they lost in Istanbul.
But Toni Kroos’ deflected first-half strike following Eden Hazard’s cutback was enough to seal the three points.
Big money summer signing Hazard should have made it a more comfortable scoreline for the 13-time European champions but somehow struck the crossbar from six yards out with an open goal.
Elsewhere Paulo Dybala scored two late goals as Juventus came from behind to beat Lokomotiv Moscow in the Champions League.
Lokomotiv took the lead in the first half after Aleksei Miranchuk fired past ex-Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny on the half-hour mark.
Despite dominating possession against the three-time Russian Premier League winners, it took until the 77th minute for Dybala to curl a left-footed effort past Lokomotiv goalkeeper Guilherme to draw the game level.
Two minutes later the Argentine forward tucked home Alex Sandro’s saved shot to seal all three points for Maurizio Sarri’s team.
Juventus are now level with Atletico Madrid on seven points at the top of Group D following the Spanish side’s 1-0 win over Bayern Leverkusen in Madrid.