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on fire Raheem Sterling hits stunning hat-trick as slick City are too good for struggling Norwich

Phil Foden was also on the scoresheet as Pep Guardiola’s side won 4-0 at Carrow Road.

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Raheem Sterling (second left) scored a hat-trick as Manchester City thrashed Norwich (Joe Giddens/PA)

Raheem Sterling (second left) scored a hat-trick as Manchester City thrashed Norwich (Joe Giddens/PA)

Raheem Sterling (second left) scored a hat-trick as Manchester City thrashed Norwich (Joe Giddens/PA)

Raheem Sterling hit a hat-trick to continue his fine form against Norwich as Manchester City eased to victory at Carrow Road and moved 12 points clear at the top of the Premier League.

With closest challengers Liverpool not in action until Sunday, Pep Guardiola was able to make five changes and still see his league leaders record a comfortable 4-0 win.

The visitors created plenty of chances before Sterling curled home a fine opener, Phil Foden then doubling the lead early in the second half.

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Phil Foden (third right) scored Manchester City’s second goal at Carrow Road (Joe Giddens/PA)

Phil Foden (third right) scored Manchester City’s second goal at Carrow Road (Joe Giddens/PA)

Phil Foden (third right) scored Manchester City’s second goal at Carrow Road (Joe Giddens/PA)

Sterling headed in his second of the night from close-range and completed his hat-trick by tapping home after seeing a last-minute penalty saved.

Guardiola shuffled his pack, Fernandinho captaining the visitors as he made just a sixth league start of the season while Ilkay Gundogan returned, with three changes at the back as Kyle Walker, Nathan Ake and Oleksandr Zinchenko were recalled.

There was no place in the squad for Jack Grealish, though, Guardiola confirming a shin injury had sidelined the England man.

The defeat ends a run of four unbeaten across all competitions for Dean Smith’s men, who remain in the bottom three as a result and face a trip to Anfield next weekend.

There were warning signs for the home side in the opening five minutes as Foden scored at the third time of asking only to be flagged offside before Bernardo Silva’s strike came back off the inside of the post and into the grasp of Angus Gunn, who then held a Gundogan header as City looked to strike early.

Teemu Pukki stung the palms of Ederson on a rare foray forward but it was almost relentless pressure from the visitors, as Sterling fluffed his lines at the back post following a Silva cross.

Norwich, though, looked impressive when they did attack as skipper Grant Hanley headed against the post with Ederson beaten.

Gunn was keeping City at bay at the other end, using his feet to save from Sterling – but the Norwich goalkeeper could not do it all alone.

Possession was given away on the edge of their own box as City worked the ball to Sterling – this time his curling finish was far out of the reach of Gunn as the visitors went ahead on the half hour.

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Raheem Sterling followed up his saved penalty to complete the scoring against Norwich (Joe Giddens/PA)

Raheem Sterling followed up his saved penalty to complete the scoring against Norwich (Joe Giddens/PA)

Raheem Sterling followed up his saved penalty to complete the scoring against Norwich (Joe Giddens/PA)

Riyad Mahrez had scored in each of his last seven games but was the next to see a strike saved by Gunn as Norwich went in a half-time with hope they could still rescue something from the game.

Those hopes were soon dashed as Foden doubled the lead just two minutes after the interval, eventually turning in a Gudogan cross despite Hanley’s best efforts to clear off the line.

Norwich continued to show heart but the game was ended as a contest when Sterling drifted in unmarked to head in a Ruben Dias knockdown for his second of the evening with 20 minutes still remaining.

City took the sting out of the game in the closing stages, Guardiola able to take off Silva, Foden and Mahrez with an eye on Tuesday’s Champions League round of 16 clash against Sporting.

But there was still time for Sterling to claim the match ball, pouncing on the rebound after his penalty had been saved by Gunn with Andre Marriner pointing to the spot following a challenge on substitute James McAtee.

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