x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Robinho triple joy for Manchester City

Robinho's first hat-trick in English football against Stoke ensures Manchester City win for the first time in four games.

The Brazilian striker Robinho wheels away in delight after securing his first Premier League hat-trick against Stoke.
The Brazilian striker Robinho wheels away in delight after securing his first Premier League hat-trick against Stoke.

Robinho knelt down and pointed to his right leg ? it was the significant reason why Manchester City gained a crucial first win in four Premier League games. The Brazilian magician left Stoke City spellbound with his first hat-trick in English football to settle a testing encounter at Eastlands. It was just what City needed after a disappointing recent league run that produced just one point from nine. Robinho was simply too quick, too clever, too cool for the visitors. He had already served notice of his talent after just two minutes, sweeping forward as the Stoke defence retreated, almost surrendering. Robinho fired a stinging 20-yard drive that Thomas Sorensen tipped away. But the Danish goalkeeper, playing despite 15 stitches in a facial wound after being caught by Tottenham's Alan Hutton last week, could do little about the 14th minute opener. City's neat passing and swift movement often left Stoke chasing shadows and deserved the first goal. Ched Evans released the final ball to set up Robinho for a cool finish. Number two was very timely, catching Stoke cold at the start of the second half and easing the pressure on the home side. This time it was Daniel Sturridge, a first half replacement for the injured Evans, who had the assist, slipping a perfect pass for the Brazilian to slot home his fifth goal since his arrival from Real Madrid. Sorensen seemed determined to prevent him making it six, with one fingertip save to his right simply breathtaking. But Robinho was not to be denied and he duly rounded off the scoring in the 72nd minute. After good work by Stephen Ireland in the midfield, City broke with Shaun Wright-Phillips and Sturridge then spotted Robinho breaking clear and he effortlessly rolled in his third. City needed such game-breaking brilliance as they had to scrap for this victory. Stoke's towering and tenacious outfit unsettled them with their direct approach. Richard Dunne had to make a last-ditch tackle to prevent Ryan Shawcross from getting a clear shot inside the box, and the former Manchester United defender then forced Joe Hart into a good save in the 34th minute. Shawcross rose to meet a Rory Delap corner with a powerful header, but it was straight at the City keeper and he managed to scoop it out to his right. Having seen his side sloppily throw away leads against Liverpool and Newcastle in recent weeks, Mark Hughes must have been alarmed. But his side held firm to record their first clean sheet since the 6-0 hammering of Portsmouth more than a month ago. Hart played his part, pushing over a 20-yard effort from Salif Diao. And despite Ireland blasting over when clear near the end, Hughes knows his side, especially with Robinho in this form, always have goals in their locker.

akhan@thenational.ae