Raheem Sterling, the Jamaica-born British-based soccer superstar, became the first player to score a June goal in the English top tier since 1947.
The attacking midfielder, who moved from Kingston to London aged five in 1999, opened the scoring for hosts Manchester City as they breezed to a 3-0 triumph over 10-man Arsenal behind closed doors on the opening night of the English Premier League’s (EPL) return on Wednesday.
Bagging the opener in first-half injury time, after David Luiz’s failure to clear the danger, saw Sterling notch his goal in his 50th home club game in all competitions. And the England international maintained his unbeaten streak in those half-century of home fixtures, never being on the losing side for either Liverpool or Manchester City.
Brazilian defender Luiz’s nightmare evening was brought to an abrupt end, brandished with a red card for pulling back Riyad Mahrez in the second half and conceding a penalty. Kevin de Bruyne made no mistake to slot home and deservingly double the hosts lead on 51 minutes.
And although the defending champions had hit cruise control when Arsenal were reduced to 10 players, it took an injury time strike from substitute Phil Foden, quick to turn in the loose ball from Sergio Aguero’s strike, to seal success.
Sterling, who followed in the footsteps of Sheffield United’s 1947 goalscorer Walter Rickett by hitting the back of the net in the month of June, explained to Sky Sports: “We expected it to be weird. The first 10 minutes we were getting used to the atmosphere, but after that I thought we controlled the game well.
“The message after the break was to find something inside ourselves and dig deep. We’re all buzzing to be back in the stadium and have put in a good effort.”
In Nigeria’s commercial capital of Lagos, a country famous for following Arsenal, there were few signs of any social distancing with crowds out in force to watch the contest. The Sir T pub in mainland Lagos was jam-packed with football fans, with a nearby police checkpoint where officers enforced a curfew that began shortly after the match.
The resumption of the EPL had a very poignant feel with players and staff taking a knee in support of the global Black Lives Matter movement. The clubs ‘took a knee’ just prior to kick-off, following the actions witnessed in the early evening scoreless draw between strugglers Aston Villa and surprise package Sheffield United at Birmingham’s Villa Park.
Pep Guardiola, the Manchester City head coach, explained in his virtual post-match press conference about their ‘Take a Knee’ protest: “White people should say sorry for the way we’ve treated black people for 400 years, I’m embarrassed and ashamed of what the white people have done for the black people.
“We should send a thousand million messages for the black people. We have to do a lot of things for the black people, which we have not done so far.”
Sterling added about the ‘Take a Knee’ protest: “I see it as a massive step for the Premier League to allow something like that to happen, and it shows we’re going in the right direction. Little by little we’re seeing change. It was natural, it was organic.”
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