CITY LATE SHOW
Sterling sees red after his winner saves Pep’s blushes
AMID the chaos of Manchester City’s celebrations, Vincent Kompany walked over to Benjamin Mendy, his new £52million teammate, and calmly said: ‘Welcome to the Premier League.’
It was a game that demonstrated the madness of this division, where a player can score a winner seven minutes into the five allocated for stoppage-time and then get sent off for celebrating.
That’s what happened to Raheem Sterling, who went charging to the sidelines in an eye-bulging frenzy, revelling in the strike that completed the comeback after Gabriel Jesus cancelled out Charlie Daniels’ first-half entry for goal of the season. The City supporters rushed to join him and the referee, Mike Dean, did not like what he saw, giving Sterling a second yellow card in the space of five minutes.
Dean will no doubt contest he was sticking rigidly to his rules, but it was one of those decisions, in one of those moments, that seemed rather heavy-handed.
‘I would like someone to comment,’ said City manager Pep Guardiola. ‘If you cannot celebrate with the fans the best solution is not to invite the fans. So at the end of the game, you score a goal, you can imagine how happy the guy is, and the team, they want to go with our fans.’
It was a grumble wrapped in relief, for this was a game in which City had 70 per cent of the possession but also might have lost. Quite aside from trailing to a Daniels thunderbolt from the left edge of the area that went in off the bar, they were also saved by a post when Josh King shot at 1-1 in the second half.
‘If you ask me about my impression of the game I’m going to tell you they were better than us,’ Guardiola admitted.
Sterling’s goal saved an unbeaten start to the season, but already there are questions to be asked, particularly of a defence which was boosted by more than £130million of reinforcements in the summer, yet coughed up numerous opportunities here. The attack will forever create chances, as it should with such insane riches that they could put Sergio Aguero on the bench, but City will need to be far tighter at the other end to win the title.
How Guardiola achieves that remains to be seen, given he switched to a four-man defence after going with a three in the previous two. He also made four changes, with Mendy, Danilo, Bernardo Silva and Sterling coming in for John Stones, the suspended Kyle Walker, Leroy Sane and Aguero.
Of those stepping in, Mendy, on his debut, and Danilo were given almost complete licence to roam forward from left and right back, a dynamic that made for fast attacks but left plenty of space for Bournemouth counters when possession was lost.
Also on City’s agenda will be the Aguero situation, given the surprise of his demotion to the bench. Just as last season, Guardiola does not seem convinced by a striker who by every measure is one of the best in the world. He cut a sulky figure on the sidelines until his introduction on 66 minutes, with Guardiola saying the decision was based on wanting an extra man in midfield.
In any case, they could have had 12 in the side and they would not have stopped Daniels’ opener.
Jermain Defoe, making his first start, then volleyed at Ederson before Jesus levelled following a lovely throughball from David Silva.
With a draw looking certain, City got their break, with Danilo passing into the path of Sterling, who bundled in via Andrew Surman’s ankle. He went to the crowd and was served rough justice, and all the while allegations were being made against Aguero by a steward and Howe was seething about a free-kick given in the build-up. Bonkers and brilliant.
Mendy must wonder what he’s gotten into.
HANDBAGS: Stewards and police hold back the City players
CLASH: Sergio Aguero has been accused of hitting a steward, but pictures and video from the incident appear to show him expressing concern for the welfare of a fan following Raheem Sterling’s 97th-minute winner.