Raheem Sterling credits 'positive' mindset after double secures Manchester City victory
England forward nets twice in 3-1 win at Selhurst Park to keep pressure on Liverpool in Premier League title race
It is inevitable in the final weeks of a closely fought Premier League title race that there will be tense times.
The opening minutes for Manchester City at Crystal Palace were just that on Sunday.
Pep Guardiola's men started well but could have been forgiven for early concern at not making their dominance count at Selhurst Park.
The longer the game would have gone being goalless the more doubt may have started to creep into City's play while emboldening the hosts that may be able to get something from the game.
But on a day when City needed their big players to step up and be counted none did so more then Raheem Sterling.
The England forward was City's hero with two of their three goals in the 3-1 victory that kept the destiny of the championship in their own hands, but the strikes do not do justice to his performance.
The 24-year-old could easily have gone missing after managing to miss an open goal in the ninth minute, pulling wide with the net gaping after excellent work from David Silva on the touchline.
But Sterling kept his head up and remained at the heart of City's forward play and it only took him six minutes to redeem himself.
He was released by Kevin de Bruyne down the right flank. He did not panic or rush things. He weighed things up, waiting for Palace's goalkeeper Vicente Guaita to commit himself before hammering a shot over him and into the roof of the net.
Sterling credited learning to remain positive for his ability to bounce back and not linger on an error.
"When I was younger you always want to score your first opportunity and sometimes it doesn't happen like that," he told the BBC.
"You don't beat yourself up. There's 80 minutes left, you just have to be ready for the next opportunity. That's the mentality, just keep going and the chance will come."
The goal undeniably settled City down but they struggled for some time to put away a Palace side content to sit back and hope that Wilfried Zaha could do something on the counter-attack when they did have the ball.
Leroy Sane and De Bruyne were both denied before half time by Guaita.
The second half began in similar fashion with City parked around the Palace away but often being let down by a final ball.
The perseverance did pay off in the 63rd minute as Sterling tapped home from close range after being found unmarked at the far post from Sane's centre.
That should have been job done but Palace found a goal with nine minutes to go to cause the side aiming to be the first team in 10 years to retain the Premier League crown some unease.
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Palace captain Luka Milivojevic's free-kick went through City's wall and Ederson was unable to keep it out.
But as Palace finally pushed forward in search of an unlikely point, so City exploited the growing gaps in their backline.
A break in the 89th minute sealed the game as De Bruyne charged forward before finding substitute Gabriel Jesus.
The Brazilian kept his composure to beat Guaita at his near post to bag his first league strike since February 6.
With two assists it was De Bruyne, who has just returned from injury, that Guardiola paid tribute to post-match.
"The last three or four games the way he played was incredible, we missed him a lot," the Spaniard said .
"He has the ability and vision to see passes that other human beings are not able to watch. With him around, our paces and passes in front - especially in the final third - are incredible and today he was so committed to defensive work, wining duels and being in that position."
Of Sterling, he added: "He missed the first chance but the first goal was incredible. He's a guy who has scored a lot of goals. He fought and helped Kyle Walker."
Updated: April 14, 2019 08:26 PM