Man City's Sterling entering his prime but still needs to conquer derby

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Unsurprisingly, all the talk around Raheem Sterling at the moment revolves around his part in Manchester City‘s controversial penalty against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League.

The England international comically kicked the turf and took a tumble in the area during the Citizens’ 6-0 win over the Ukranian outfit but referee Viktor Kassai bizarrely pointed to the spot.

Sterling told BT Sport: “I went to chip the ball and I don’t know what happened next.

“I ended up on the floor and turned around. I don’t think I felt contact, it was just my bad.

“Apologies to the ref (Viktor Kassai) and apologies to Shakhtar.”

In his post-match press conference, City boss Pep Guardiola admitted “we realised immediately it was not a penalty”.

In light of the event, it’s easy to forget that Sterling was in top form and on the score sheet again as City bagged six goals in a game for the second time in four days.

The former Liverpool star registered two goals and two assists during City’s 6-1 demolition of Southampton on Sunday. That takes his tally in all competitions this season to seven goals and six assists. Sergio Aguero is the only Premier League player to manage more goal contributions so far (14).

It all points to the inescapable truth that Sterling has matured into one of the most effective English players in the game, even if that never quite came to the fore with the Three Lions at the World Cup in Russia.

Ever since Guardiola’s arrival in Manchester, Sterling’s game has been elevated to a whole new level. The sophistication in his play is there for all to see. He makes intelligent runs in behind but also drops into spaces cleverly and excels with his quick passing in the final third.

It’s almost as if Guardiola has removed the forward’s blinders and he can suddenly see the whole pitch with all the options and avenues available to him. Sterling had 22 goals and 12 assists in the Premier League and Champions League alone last season while he looks set to match that this term.

The one criticism that continues to haunt the 23-year-old though is that he has failed to deliver consistently in big matches with his poor record against the top six in the Premier League evidence of that.

In 43 league appearances against the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Liverpool, Sterling has only scored nine times with five of those strikes coming against Spurs.

Because he’s been around for so long though, people forget that he’s still a young player and perhaps only now entering his prime but this is an area he will want to begin improving in from now on.

He gets his first go at it this Sunday with the Manchester derby providing the stage and the Red Devils bringing the challenge – opposition against which he has never scored.

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Barcelona defender Jordi Alba is finally recalled to Spain squad

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Spain's Barcelona defender Jordi Alba

Jordi Alba has been recalled to the Spain squad ahead of next week’s crucial Nations League meeting with Croatia in Maksimir.

The Barcelona full-back was absent for October’s friendly victory over Wales and subsequent defeat by England in Seville, but is back in Luis Enrique’s plans as he looks to seal a finals place for Spain.

The Premier League is represented by twice-capped Wolves full-back Jonny, Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea and the Chelsea trio of Kepa Arrizabalaga, Cesar Azpilicueta and Alvaro Morata.

However, Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso and United’s Juan Mata, as well as the likes of Raul Albiol, Marc Bartra, Koke and Paco Alcacer of Borussia Dortmund, have not been called up for the match in Croatia on Thursday, November 15 and a friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina three days later.

National boss Luis Enrique unveiled his 24-man squad on Thursday, in a video which showed him hanging pictures of the selected players on a tactics board in his office.

Spain squad to play Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina: De Gea (Man Utd), Kepa (Chelsea), Pau Lopez (Real Betis); Jonny (Wolves), Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Llorente (Real Sociedad), Ramos (Real Madrid), Hermoso (Espanyol), Martinez (Athletic Bilbao), Gaya (Valencia), Alba (Barcelona); Busquets (Barcelona), Fornals (Villarreal), Brais Mendez (Celta Vigo), Sergi Roberto (Barcelona), Saul (Atletico Madrid), Ceballos (Real Madrid), Rodri (Atletico Madrid); Suso (AC Milan), Rodrigo (Valencia), Aspas (Celta Vigo), Morata (Chelsea), Isco, Asensio (both Real Madrid).

Provided by Press Association Sport 

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Liverpool's Robbie Fowler among five of the most controversial penalty decisions

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Robbie Fowler against Arsenal in 1997

Raheem Sterling won a penalty for Manchester City when he fell over after kicking the turf in their 6-0 Champions League win over Shakhtar Donetsk.

Referee Viktor Kassai wrongly awarded the spot kick which Gabriel Jesus scored.

Here, we look at other controversial and bizarre penalty decisions.

Robbie Fowler v Arsenal, 1997

The striker won a UEFA Fair Play award after trying to convince referee Gerald Ashby that David Seaman had not touched him when a penalty was awarded at Highbury.

Fowler went down as Seaman rushed out but immediately insisted there was no contact between the pair.

Ashby stuck to his decision and Seaman saved Fowler’s spot kick – only for Jason McAteer to score the rebound as Liverpool won 2-1.

Gordon Watson v Leeds, 1992

In the era before diving became commonplace, Sheffield Wednesday’s Gordon Watson could lay claim to one of the worst.

At Hillsborough against rivals Leeds, the striker launched himself into the air a couple of paces after United defender Chris Whyte had stretched to prod the ball away.

John Lukic turned John Sheridan’s penalty onto the post, only for the winger to stab in the rebound but Leeds overcame the sense of injustice by winning 6-1.

Arjen Robben v Mexico, 2014

Holland were 1-0 down with two minutes left and on the verge of going out of the World Cup in Brazil.

Wesley Sneijder had levelled with two minutes left before Robben earned a penalty in the fourth minute of stoppage time.

Raphael Marquez stretched for the ball but Robben kicked the back of his own left leg while initiating contact with Marquez allowing Klaas-Jan Huntelaar to score and send Holland into the quarter finals.

Besart Berisha v Perth Glory, 2012

The former Burnley misfit will be better known for this comical penalty than his forgettable spell at Turf Moor.

Deep into stoppage time in the A-League Grand Final, Brisbane Roar were awarded a penalty after Berisha’s air kick saw him end up on the ground and Jarred Gillett pointed to the spot.

Berisha, who had scored Roar’s equaliser, converted to win the final 2-1 in the most controversial fashion.

Corry Evans v Switzerland, 2017

Northern Ireland’s hopes of reaching the 2018 World Cup suffered a damaging blow when they lost 1-0 at home to Switzerland in the first-leg of their play-off.

But it was the nature of the defeat which angered the hosts after referee Romanian referee Ovidiu Hategan awarded a penalty against Corry Evans.

The official gave the spot kick for handball but replays showed Xherdan Shaqiri’s volley struck Evans on the back. Northern Ireland’s protests did not stop AC Milan defender Ricardo Rodriguez scoring from 12 yards.

Provided by Press Association Sport 

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