Not a Sterling show from Raheem
City attacker must improve finishing in the absence of the injured Aguero and Bony
ASTON VILLA 0
MAN CITY 0
Manuel Pellegrini's message was clear - Raheem Sterling must score more and work harder.
Little pleasure would have been derived by the Manchester City manager that his damning assessment became vindicated less than 48 hours later.
Scintillating in Spain against Sevilla in the Champions League in midweek, the England international was brought crashing back down to earth in the English Premier League at a rain-lashed Villa Park yesterday.
Pellegrini's decision to resist temptation by sending Kelechi Iheanacho on - City's only available striker - to take the place of Wilfried Bony midway through the first half failed to pay dividends.
City expected to see Sterling shed his chequered off-field image and realise his true potential by bettering the 11-goal tally he recorded in an under-performing Liverpool side last season.
With six goals and numerous chances spurned, only half of that ambition has been realised.
Barely 12 months since he was presented with the prestigious Golden Boy, accolade previously won by the likes of Sergio Aguero, Lionel Messi and Mario Goetze, Sterling's golden touch has often been conspicuous by its absence.
With Aguero and now Bony languishing helplessly on the sidelines, the burden of responsibility has fallen on him, rather than Iheanacho, to make up their goal-scoring shortfall.
But, as was so often the case during his final months at Liverpool, Sterling has yet to see his new City teammates as part of his personal learning curve, nor has he fully embraced a style tailor-made to bring the best out of his abilities as a provider-turned- poacher.
In his mind, the 20-year-old has already made it at the highest level.
Commanding a transfer fee of £49 million ($105m), it makes it easy to understand how the boy that grew up in the shadow of Wembley Stadium has become the latest victim of having too much, too young.
His exploits against Sevilla in the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in midweek offered a compelling case for him to lead the line ahead of Iheanacho and fellow summer recruit Kevin de Bruyne.
Yet in the space of five days and 84 minutes of action, Pellegrini's leap of faith in his false No. 9 backfired.
Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan knew little, if anything, when Sterling's header from point-blank range hit him in the face in the 53rd minute.
City, similarly, are yet to discover the wider-reaching implications that their profligate prodigy's outing against Villa will have for their title tilt.
That series of wasted opportunities will come at a cost of three points in the interim, but could prove fatal when the medals are being handed out on May 15 next year.
BY THE NUMBERS
0 shots on target
Aston Villa failed to register a shot on target against Man City. The last time that happened was in August 2014.
Man City have drawn two of their last three English Premier games 0-0, this after a run of 60 games without a goalless draw.
Of course, it was a frustrating game because we did everything to win the game... they didn’t shoot once in the whole game at our goalkeeper but these things happen in football.
— Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini
Today is a massive draw for us. the new manager has come in and organised us. he has done well.
— Aston Villa defender Micah RIchards