England forward Sterling struck for the fifth time in eight club appearances as he netted the decisive penalty in a hard-fought and controversial 1-0 win over 10-man Wolves on Saturday.
It was also the 100th Premier League goal of the 27-year-old’s career and further underlined his recent resurgence after a spell on the fringes of Pep Guardiola’s team.
Sterling lost his spot as a regular starter towards the end of last season and, even though he was recalled for the Champions League final in May, he remained down the pecking order at the start of the current campaign.
That led to speculation over his future but injuries elsewhere in the squad have changed the picture and led to a reversal of Sterling’s fortunes in recent weeks.
“I am a player that likes to feel that they can help their team and I am really grateful to have this run in the side so I can do just that,” said Sterling.
“We have got two top players in each position that play for their national team, so there are loads of challenges.
“It is a nice achievement, to get to (100 Premier League goals), but the most important thing was the win and I am just happy to help the team.”
The contest was a scrappy and ill-tempered affair but it swung in City’s favour after Wolves’ Raul Jimenez was sent off for two bookings in quick succession before the break.
Jimenez was first shown a yellow card by referee Jon Moss for fouling Rodri and then received another, just moments later, for failing to retreat 10 yards at the resulting free-kick.
City went on to dominate the second half but their breakthrough only came after Joao Moutinho was contentiously adjudged to have handled a Bernardo Silva cross. The player had his arm raised but some replays suggested the ball may have struck his back.
VAR upheld the decision and Sterling took full advantage to grab the only goal on 66 minutes and ensure City would remain top of the table.
“I picked my place and went for it,” said Sterling. “It was really nice to see it go in.
“Wolves are always a difficult team to play against, even with 10 men, and we found it difficult again.
“You have these types of games over the season and it is just about sticking with it. Not every game is going to be as nice as we would like to be, but sometimes you have to dig deep and that is how you build championships.”
Wolves had gripes over Jimenez’s second yellow card and the penalty and, after last week’s injury-time loss to Liverpool, the result was another bitter pill to swallow. They are now without a win – or even a goal – in four games.
Captain Conor Coady said: “In the last two weeks we’ve given the best two teams in the land really good games.
“We’ve conceded a goal in the 94th minute and a contentious penalty. We’ll take confidence from this but we know we have to start picking up results and wins as soon as we can.”