Sergio Aguero took his tally to eight goals in seven Premier League games against Stoke City and Nolito grabbed a late brace as Manchester City secured a 4-1 victory at the bet365 Stadium.
Argentina international Aguero scored a penalty and a header in the first half on Saturday to help Pep Guardiola’s side to a third victory in three competitive games of the new season.
Aguero missed twice from the spot during the midweek Champions League play-off thrashing of Steaua Bucharest, but he made no mistake from 12 yards when Ryan Shawcross was rather harshly penalised by referee Mike Dean.
Stoke fans were still making their feelings clear when City doubled their lead, Aguero heading in Kevin De Bruyne’s delivery, and the home side felt further aggrieved when Aleksandar Kolarov’s clumsy challenge on Joe Allen six yards from goal went unpunished.
City had won all 25 previous Premier League matches in which they led by two or more goals at half-time, but Mark Hughes’ side were given hope of a comeback when Bojan Krkic converted a penalty past Willy Caballero – starting ahead of Joe Hart again – after another controversial call against Raheem Sterling.
Stoke pushed in search of a leveller as City began to show signs of fatigue following their European exertions, but Nolito’s first Premier League goal in the closing stages – swiftly followed by a second – made the result safe and took the visitors level on points with Manchester United after two matches.
Sterling, booed by a number of home fans in the early stages, curled a shot narrowly over the crossbar from the edge of the area as City started strongly in blustery conditions.
Stoke showed encouraging signs on the counter-attack, with Allen unlucky not to turn a cross into Mame Diouf’s path inside the area, but Shay Given had to be alert to stop Sterling slotting the ball into the bottom corner as City threatened again.
Stoke spoiled their good early work though by gifting City the lead with 27 minutes played. Shawcross was adjudged to have held on to Nicolas Otamendi’s arm at a corner, allowing Aguero to fire high past Given from 12 yards.
Given blocked another Aguero effort as City looked to take control amid continued frustration from the home fans, but he could do nothing to stop the Argentina striker adding a second on 36 minutes as he glanced a superb header into the far corner following De Bruyne’s free-kick from the right.
Caballero blocked Bardsley’s volley at his left-hand post to preserve the lead, before Diouf headed wide after Allen’s strong penalty appeals for a shove by Kolarov were ignored, but Stoke were given a lifeline just after the break.
Sterling was penalised for trying to block Shawcross from reaching a high ball at the far post, and Bojan dispatched the spot-kick high into Caballero’s goal.
With the crowd in full voice and Jonathan Walters having been introduced from the bench, Stoke pressed hard to find an equaliser, and City were rewarded for some disciplined defending when they struck the killer blow on the counter-attack with four minutes left.
Kelechi Iheanacho, just two minutes after replacing Aguero, latched onto De Bruyne’s pass before rounding Given and squaring the ball to Nolito, who side-footed home.
Nolito then scored again as Sterling broke clear before setting up the former Celta Vigo man for another simple finish.
Key Opta stats:
– Sergio Aguero is the fourth player to score a penalty in each of the first two matchdays of a PL season (Duncan Ferguson in 01/02, Frank Lampard in 12/13 and Roberto Soldado in 13/14).
– Kevin De Bruyne has 14 assists since debuting for Manchester City (all comps), four more than any other player at the club.
– Ryan Shawcross is the first PL player to concede and win a penalty in the same game since Theo Walcott in August 2011.
– Since his debut in August 2008, no player has given away more penalties than Shawcross (9, level with Sebastien Bassong).
– Since the start of last season, Mike Dean has awarded more penalties than any other referee in the Premier League (16).
– Willy Caballero has kept just five clean sheets in 24 games for Manchester City (all comps).