Pep Guardiola praised the “extraordinary” Raheem Sterling after his 11-minute second-half hat-trick in Manchester City’s 5-1 Champions League thrashing of Atalanta.
Sterling’s scintillating performance capped a fine comeback after two Sergio Aguero goals had cancelled out Ruslan Malinovskyi’s penalty opener at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday.
City’s victory maintained their 100 per cent record in the competition and put them within touching distance of the last 16 as they moved five points clear at the top of Group C.
There were downsides with Phil Foden sent off late on and Rodri hobbling off injured, but Sterling grabbed the headlines.
Guardiola said: “All the credit is for him. He’s a guy whose physicality is incredible, he is so strong.
“A day after a game, he could play another game. His regeneration is incredible.
“He can play both sides, he’s fast and defensively he helps us a lot. He is an extraordinary player.”
City made a slow start and were punished when Malinovskyi struck after Fernandinho brought down Josep Ilicic.
City’s response was emphatic with Sterling teeing up Aguero for his first and winning the penalty for his second.
He then produced a virtuoso display in the second half and should have had a fourth goal when he rolled a shot wide late on.
Foden also had a fine game until he was booked twice in the space of seven minutes late in the second half.
Guardiola said: “For Phil what is important is not the red card but how he played. He played a high level, he is an incredible player.”
City will now look to secure their place in the knockout stages when they face Atalanta again at the San Siro in Milan in a fortnight.
Guardiola said: “It was a really tough game against a really tough opponent. That is why I am so satisfied with the result.
“With nine points we need one more (win) to be in the next stage.”
Guardiola added that Rodri will be assessed on Wednesday but could be out between 10 days and a month with a hamstring injury.