sterling scores
AFP PHOTO

Manchester City moved five points clear at the top of the Premier League as Raheem Sterling inspired a 3-1 win over Bournemouth, while Manchester United’s problems mounted as they escaped with a 2-2 draw at lowly Southampton on Saturday.

Pep Guardiola’s side racked up their sixth successive league win thanks to a second half surge after Bournemouth shocked the Etihad Stadium.

City hold a significant lead over second placed Liverpool, but they can close the gap back to two points if they beat Everton in the Merseyside derby at Anfield on Sunday.

“A good win, after the Champions League it is always tough. People think it’s easy for us but that is not the truth, so I like to win in this way,” Guardiola said.

“In the second half one action from Raheem Sterling changed the game.”

It was a landmark moment for former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss Guardiola, who said: “My 400th win as a manager? I didn’t know that. Congratulations Pep!”

Guardiola left City’s record goal-scorer Sergio Aguero out of the squad, but even the Argentine star’s absence couldn’t halt the champions’ momentum.

City had scored 40 goals in their previous 13 league games and it took them just 16 minutes to shatter Bournemouth’s resistence as Bernardo Silva bagged his second goal of the season.

Leroy Sane’s shot was saved by Asmir Begovic, but Silva was on hand to tap into the empty net.

City were stunned in the 44th minute when Callum Wilson headed Bournemouth’s equaliser from a Simon Francis cross.

But the leaders restored order in the 57th minute as Sterling continued his mastery of Eddie Howe’s team.

Sterling netted from close-range after Begovic spilled Danilo’s shot, making it eight goals in six league appearances against Bournemouth for the City winger.

Ilkay Gundogan put the result beyond doubt when the German finished a fine move involving Bernardo Silva and Sane in the 79th minute.

While City remain the team to beat, their rivals United remain in turmoil after their winless league run extended to three games.

AFP / Glyn KIRK Ander Herrera rescued Manchester United at Southampton

Jose Mourinho’s side desperately needed a victory at St Mary’s to stay in the hunt for a top four finish, but they ended up relieved to avoid defeat after falling two goals behind against third bottom Saints.

“I think the result is quite fair in spite of the fact we were more dominant in the game,” Mourinho said.

“I’m always confident but always doubtful at the same time because we don’t start well many times.

“To have more continuity in our attacking waves you cannot lose the ball so many times.”

Southampton had won only once in 13 league matches this season, that solitary success coming at Crystal Palace on September 1, yet within 12 minutes they had carved open the United defence.

– Stern-faced –

Nathan Redmond wriggled beyond four statuesque defenders on the edge of the penalty area before finding Michael Obafemi, who teed up Stuart Armstrong for a fierce drive that flashed past David de Gea.

Mourinho sat stern-faced on the bench as Southampton celebrated and his expression was even more vexed eight minutes later as Marcus Rashford’s needless foul on Mario Lemina led to Southampton’s second.

Cedric Soares lined up the resulting free-kick 20 yards from goal and curled a superb effort over the United wall and into the top corner of De Gea’s net.

Romelu Lukaku gave United a lifeline when he slotted home from Rashford’s pass in the 33rd minute as the Belgian striker grabbed his first goal in 13 games.

United suddenly had a spring in their step and Ander Herrera equalised in the 39th minute when he met Rashford’s low cross with a clever back-heeled effort from close-range.

But seventh-placed United reverted to their spluttering form after the interval and they are now six points adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea, who would increase that gap if they beat Fulham on Sunday.

Crystal Palace ended their eight-game winless league run with a 2-0 success against fellow strugglers Burnley.

Brighton conceded the fastest goal in the Premier League this season after 54 seconds, but Chris Hughton’s team recovered to win 2-1 at 10-man Huddersfield.

Leicester won for just the second time in seven league games as Watford slumped to a 2-0 defeat at the King Power Stadium, with Jamie Vardy and James Maddison scoring for the Foxes.

West Ham ended Newcastle’s three-match winning run as Javier Hernandez struck twice in a 3-0 victory at St James Park.