Raheem Sterling’s first-half hat-trick ensured Manchester City stayed top of the Premier League with a 5-1 mauling of Bournemouth on Saturday.

Sterling, who had previously scored just twice for City since his A?49 million (66.6 million euros) summer move from Liverpool, took advantage of uncertainty in the visitorsa ranks after they lost goalkeeper Artur Boruc to an injury in the warm-up.

Adam Federici, Boruc’s replacement, was badly at fault as Wilfried Bony scored only his third City goal since arriving from Swansea in January.

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And although Glenn Murray did pull Bournemouth back to 2-1 midway through the first half, Sterling struck twice more, completing his hat-trick following a mix-up involving Federici and midfielder Andrew Surman before Bony added another late on.

Bournemouth have suffered a series of injury setbacks since winning promotion to the top flight, losing top scorer Callum Wilson and summer signings Tyrone Mings and Max Gradel to serious knee injuries.

Manager Eddie Howe has also lost captain Tommy Elphick for the next 10 weeks because of ankle trouble, and suffered another setback with Boruc.

Howe’s side were positive despite all of those problems, and had a very strong penalty claim rejected in the first five minutes, as Nicolas Otamendi caught Dan Gosling with a sliding challenge after Matt Ritchiea s shot had been blocked.

Yet City survived that scare and were 2-0 up inside the first 11 minutes as Federici endured a forgettable Premier League debut for the Cherries.

Federici was blameless as Sterling touched in a seventh minute opener a – possibly from an offside position a – after Pablo Zabaleta had charged forward to head Fernandinhoa s diagonal pass across goal, and Bony had touched on.

The Australian goalkeeper, though, made a horrendous mistake four minutes later, fumbling a straightforward Bacary Sagna cross delivered from the left, and allowing Bony to run the ball into the net.

It was to Bournemoutha s credit that they did not fold there and then.

Federici made a fine flying save to tip aside a Kevin De Bruyne shot moments later, before Murray took advantage of some slack City defending to pull a goal back.

Murray, once of Citya s lower-league neighbours Stockport and Rochdale, strode forward as defender Eliaquim Mangala backed off, and drove a shot past Joe Hart from the edge of the penalty area.

The home side responded quickly, though, as Sterling broke on to De Bruynea s perfectly-weighted pass, left Steve Cook and former City captain Sylvain Distin on the floor with a couple of neat feints, and steered in his second goal.

Federici did brilliantly to tip a De Bruyne shot on to the bar after that, but his first half ended with more misery, as he got into a mix-up with Andrew Surman in dealing with a long ball, and Jesus Navas nipped in.

Federici denied Navas, but Sterling steered the rebound between the keeper’s legs for a first-half hat-trick.

Sterling had two more chances to add goals, but his first-half composure failed him, hitting the side netting with one opening and rolling another wide.

Midfielder Yaya Tourea s half-time withdrawal checked Citya s momentum, and their fans will be hoping that manager Manuel Pellegrini was being nothing more than cautious in taking him off.

There was, though, one more goal before the afternoon was over, as Bony turned cleverly on to Navasa cross for his second in the final minute.

There might have been another, but substitute Kelechi Iheanacho was ruled offside after running through to chip Federici in stoppage time.

For Pellegrini, this was the strong performance needed ahead of major tests against Sevilla and the Champions League on Wednesday, and Manchester United in the Premier League next Sunday.

By AFP