Raheem Sterling went from the farcical to the sublime in helping Manchester City to a 6-0 win over Shakhtar Donetsk and the brink of qualifying for the Champions League knockout stage on Wednesday.
The England winger provided the main talking point in another convincing victory for City when he stubbed his toe in the turf as he attempted a shot in the 24th minute and toppled over. Referee Viktor Kassai awarded a penalty despite there being no contact with a defender – much to the amazement of Shakhtar’s players, some of whom even laughed at the decision – and Gabriel Jesus converted the spot kick for the first of his three goals on the night.
“I just kicked the floor by accident,” Sterling said. “I didn’t mean to fall over, it was an absolute shambles from my behalf.”
That made it 2-0 in the 24th minute, after David Silva opened the scoring from close range in the 13th.
Sterling showed much more poise in scoring City’s third goal, by picking up the ball 40m out, powering through two would-be tacklers and curling a fierce shot into the top corner from the edge of the area in the 48th.
Jesus made it 4-0 in the 72nd, again from the penalty spot after Silva was tripped by Taras Stepanenko, before Riyad Mahrez and Jesus – with a goal that completed his hat-trick – wrapped up the scoring.
City remain first place in Group F, but moved three points ahead of Lyon after the French club drew 2-2 against Hoffenheim. The English champions need one more point from their last two games to be certain of a top-two finish.
After City’s latest attacking masterclass, it was the penalty decision – given by a referee who has officiated in a Champions League final and in World Cups – that will best be remembered. It led to Sterling trending worldwide on social media.
It was so obvious that Sterling tripped himself over, rather than being fouled by chasing Shakhtar defender Mykola Matvyenko, that City manager Pep Guardiola covered his face with his hands after the incident before wagging his finger toward his own bench, indicating the penalty should not have been awarded. Sergio Aguero, a substitute sitting just in front of Guardiola, had a smile on his face.
The official behind the goal – used in Uefa run competitions instead of a video assistant referee – appeared to have a good view of the trip but somehow didn’t spot it.
Sterling looked slightly sheepish as he walked away from the spot he fell, and didn’t tell the referee there had been no contact from an opponent.
— MatchedBettingGuru (@matchedbets10) November 7, 2018