LONDON: Leroy Sane is certainly making the most of whatever chances he gets in Manchester City’s squad packed full of extravagantly expensive attacking talent.
His fifth goal of the season for the club was also their important first against Crystal Palace on Saturday, just before half-time.
City were struggling, still goalless against the Premier League’s bottom club – but after Sane opened the scoring they went on to win 5-0 and stay top of the table.
It also meant the 21-year-old German winger has scored five times from seven shots on target so far this season – despite being dropped at the start of the campaign by unimpressed Pep Guardiola.
The next two goals were scored by England winger Raheem Sterling, who quickly became Sane’s best friend at the club after the German international joined from Schalke in summer 2016.
Sane’s 44th-minute strike against Palace – now managed by ex-England boss Roy Hodgson – was his third goal in four days.
He said afterwards: “It was a little bit hard, they stayed very deep and we had some chances but we went – the last pass was missing.
“But scoring one minute before half-time was very good for us.”
City manager Pep Guardiola last week condemned the League Cup, England’s second cup competition, as “a waste of time”.
Yet he had Sane to thank for the two goals that ensured they sneaked past West Bromwich Albion 2-1 in the third round, setting up a winnable fourth-round tie against second-tier Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Sane became Manchester City’s fourth-most expensive signing in summer 2016 when he joined from Schalke for a deal worth up to £42million.
He impressed as part of an attacking front-three alongside Sterling and Sergio Aguero before his winter 2017 was disrupted by an muscle injury and then the arrival of Brazil’s Gabriel Jesus.
His first-team prospects might have looked trickier this season, after the club spent heavily this summer on Monaco’s Bernardo Silva,
Guardiola can also call upon not only Aguero, Jesus and Sterling up-front, but also the forward-looking likes of Kevin de Bruyne, David Silva and Yaya Toure.
The manager revealed he dropped Sane at the start of this season because he considered the winger unfit and out of form after returning for pre-season – but has now changed his mind.
Guardiola said: “He didn’t arrive good. He didn’t make a good pre-season. He wasn’t good in the first games. He didn’t deserve to play.
“But now I have five strikers, all of them deserve to play. I need them sharp.”
But Sane, the youngest except for Jesus, is now looking as productive as any.
He came off the bench to score twice, emphatically wrapping up City’s 5-0 victory over Liverpool earlier this month, before those crucial contributions against WBA and Palace.
Saturday’s victory made City the first team to score at least five goals in three consecutive games in England’s top division since Blackburn Rovers in 1958-1959.
Palace last week became the first English top-flight side ever to lose their first five games without scoring – and have now suffered even worse.
Their next league game is a trip to Manchester United next Saturday – while City prepare to face Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday then Chelsea on Saturday evening.
Full-back Benjamin Mendy went off just before half-time with what could be knee ligament damage – the only downside on another triumphant day for City and especially man-of-the-moment Sane.