City pick off Cher­ries

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport -

David Silva and Gabriel Je­sus struck to give Manch­ester City a 2-1 vic­tory over rel­e­ga­tion-threat­ened Bournemout­h, who replied through David Brooks and came close to equal­is­ing. Else­where, Burn­ley and Wolves drew 1-1.

This was a per­for­mance, if not a re­sult, that will con­vince Bournemout­h they can still beat the drop and a game that is only likely to strengthen Pep Guardi­ola’s de­sire for re­in­force­ments at the back. Manch­ester City’s de­fence may have been judged to be wa­ter­tight by the Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion for Sport, which quashed the club’s two-year Euro­pean ban this week, but the same could not be said for the one on the pitch last night.

Two mo­ments of in­spi­ra­tion – the first a divine free-kick from David Silva, whose im­pend­ing de­par­ture looks in­creas­ingly pre­ma­ture, the sec­ond an art­ful piece of cen­tre-for­ward play from Gabriel Je­sus – were ul­ti­mately enough to down a spir­ited, en­ter­pris­ing Bournemout­h. But Ed­die Howe’s side asked plenty of ques­tions of City’s shaky rear­guard and strangely tepid mid­field and, in the end, were un­lucky not to get some­thing from the game.

Play like this in their fi­nal two fix­tures against Southamp­ton and Ever­ton, and Bournemout­h may still have a de­cent chance of avoid­ing rel­e­ga­tion. Play like this against Arse­nal in the FA Cup semi-fi­nal at Wem­b­ley on Satur­day, or Real Madrid in the sec­ond leg of their Cham­pi­ons League Round of 16 tie next month, and Guardi­ola’s hopes of another “tre­ble” of tro­phies might be op­ti­mistic.

Trail­ing 2-0 at the in­ter­val, there looked a long way back for Bournemout­h, even if that score­line flat­tered City, but they kept their shape and com­po­sure, hunted in packs, played on the front foot and re­fused to be cowed. And clearly fan­cied their chances against City’s makeshift back four. In­deed, the best per­for­mance of a City per­sua­sion came from Guardi­ola in his post CAS award, pre-match press con­fer­ence. Silva and Je­sus aside, his play­ers lacked the same pas­sion and de­fi­ance.

Guardi­ola wants at least one cen­tre-half, pos­si­bly two, this sum­mer plus a left-back and it is easy to see why. With Aymeric La­porte rested, City were wob­bly at the back. Ben­jamin Mendy lacked con­cen­tra­tion. Eric Gar­cia had a tough time at right-back af­ter re­plac­ing Kyle Walker and Ni­co­las Ota­mendi and John Stones, well, they sel­dom in­spire con­fi­dence these days. They started to­gether in the pre­vi­ous home game against New­cas­tle and were never tested but here, against Bournemout­h’s hun­gry, mo­bile at­tack and dogged press, they did not look com­fort­able. “It was a dif­fi­cult game, they [Bournemout­h] played re­ally well,” Guardi­ola said. “We had a prob­lem in our build up, we strug­gled and their high press­ing was so good.”

Bournemout­h should have got on the score­sheet long be­fore they did but their goal again ex­posed City’s sus­cep­ti­bil­ity to a di­rect ball in be­hind. Diego Rico punched a pass from the left. Stones was caught out and Cal­lum Wil­son wheeled in be­hind be­fore cross­ing for David Brooks to slot home.

Bournemout­h would get two more sights of goal. Cal­lum Wil­son dragged a shot wide af­ter Gar­cia made a hash of clear­ing Brooks’ cross and Jef­fer­son Lerma had a shot blocked af­ter a goal­mouth scram­ble but it was that sort of day for Bournemout­h; noth­ing quite fell for them. A su­perb free-kick from Ju­nior Stanis­las was tipped on to a post by Eder­son and then ric­o­cheted

Ruth­less: Gabriel Je­sus made Bournemout­h pay for missed chances as he fired the ball into the net for Manch­ester City’s sec­ond goal off the City goal­keeper and out rather than into the net and a dis­al­lowed goal in the sec­ond half summed up Bournemout­h’s luck. Josh King’s toe was prob­a­bly only a cen­time­tre ahead of the back of Stones’ heel when his goal from Stanis­las’s shot-cum-cross was ruled off­side.

“It’s dif­fi­cult at this stage to cling to pos­i­tives as you need re­sults and points over any­thing,” Howe said. “I’m hugely dis­ap­pointed. I felt we gave ev­ery­thing.”

Bournemout­h were be­hind af­ter just six min­utes. Silva had curled home a free-kick against New­cas­tle but this one, with its gor­geous arc, was on another level. The ball was head­ing for the top cor­ner the mo­ment it left that wand of a left boot and crashed in off the un­der­side of the cross­bar for dra­matic ef­fect. Do­minic Solanke had an ef­fort blocked by Ota­mendi and, from the re­sult­ing cor­ner, Philip Billing headed over from close range un­der lit­tle pres­sure. “We prob­a­bly weren’t clin­i­cal enough,” Howe said.

City, by con­trast, were. Two min­utes af­ter that Billing miss, Je­sus showed Bournemout­h what ruth­less­ness looks like. Silva’s pass into Je­sus had Bournemout­h on the back foot but there was plenty still to do. Je­sus ghosted past Jack Stacey with a de­li­cious nut­meg, then he rounded Steve Cook to cre­ate enough space to ping a bul­let low into the far cor­ner. Bournemout­h threw ev­ery­thing they had at City in that sec­ond half and, by the fi­nal whis­tle, the shot count – 14-8 in Bournemout­h’s favour – was re­veal­ing. It was not the statis­tic that mat­tered for Howe, though.

Manch­ester City (4-3-3) Eder­son 6; Walker 6 (Gar­cia ht), Stones 5, Ota­mendi 5, Mendy 5 (Zinchenko 76); Silva 8, Fer­nand­inho 6, Gun­do­gan 5 (Ro­dri 68); Bernardo 5 (Ster­ling ht), Je­sus 8 (Mahrez 76), Fo­den 6. Subs Car­son (g), La­porte, De Bruyne, Doyle. Booked Gar­cia.

Bournemout­h (4-1-4-1) Rams­dale 6; Stacey 5, S Cook 5, Kelly 6, Rico 7; Lerma 7; Stanis­las 7 (Brooks 69), Billing 6 (Sur­ridge 90), Gosling 6 (L Cook 69), King 6 (H Wil­son 77); Solanke 6 (C Wil­son 69). Subs Boruc (g), Sur­man, Dan­juma, Simp­son. Booked Kelly. Ref­eree Lee Ma­son (Lan­cashire)

NORTH­ERN FOOT­BALL COR­RE­SPON­DENT James Ducker at the Eti­had Sta­dium

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