Aguero is cleared of hit­ting stew­ard

Bournemouth agree City striker did noth­ing wrong Ster­ling is sent off af­ter play­ers cel­e­brate with fans

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page - By Jeremy Wil­son at the Vi­tal­ity Sta­dium

Bournemouth last night is­sued a state­ment with­draw­ing an al­le­ga­tion by one of their stew­ards that he had been hit by Manch­ester City’s Ser­gio Aguero in the crowd melee that fol­lowed Ra­heem Ster­ling’s dra­matic 97th-minute win­ner for Manch­ester City yes­ter­day.

Hours af­ter Dorset Po­lice launched a for­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the claim, which Aguero force­fully de­nied on Twit­ter, the club said: “AFC Bournemouth are aware of an al­leged in­ci­dent which oc­curred fol­low­ing Manch­ester City’s sec­ond goal at Vi­tal­ity Sta­dium on Satur­day.

“The club have been ad­vised that due to a mis­un­der­stand­ing, an ear­lier state­ment al­leg­ing as­sault has been with­drawn and no as­sault took place.

“AFC Bournemouth recog­nises that stew­ards and po­lice were car­ry­ing out their du­ties in pre­vent­ing en­croach­ment onto the pitch, with the safety of play­ers and sup­port­ers in mind.”

The state­ment drew to a close a bizarre se­quence of events that fol­lowed Ster­ling’s dis­missal by ref­eree Mike Dean af­ter City fans surged over the hoard­ings in ec­static cel­e­bra­tion at him clinch­ing a 2-1 vic­tory with vir­tu­ally the last kick of the game.

Sev­eral City play­ers, in­clud­ing Aguero, Ben­jamin Mendy and Fer­nand­inho, were man­han­dled as po­lice and stew­ards tried to re­store or­der. A Bournemouth club stew­ard later gave a state­ment to the po­lice.

City had left by the time of the stew­ard’s com­plaint but Aguero de­nied any wrong­do­ing. Last night he tweeted: “On this story about the stew­ard, I did not hit any­one, this al­le­ga­tion is false and the TV pic­tures prove it.”

Man­ager Pep Guardi­ola had been fu­ri­ous to see a sec­ond City player sent off in the space of six days and sug­gested that foot­ball should stop invit­ing fans if it does not soften its rules on goal cel­e­bra­tions.

His team had Kyle Walker sent off ear­lier in the week against Ever­ton for two book­ings and Ster­ling also now faces a one-match ban – against his old club Liver­pool – for shar­ing his glory with the trav­el­ling fans. It was un­clear whether Ster­ling even left the field of play as his team-mates joined with him and the sup­port­ers crowded for­ward.

“If you can­not cel­e­brate with the fans, the best so­lu­tion is don’t in­vite the fans,” said Guardi­ola. “You score a goal, you can imag­ine how happy the guy is, and the team. They want to go with our fans. You miss him [Walker] 50 min­utes against Ever­ton, 90 min­utes here in Bournemouth, for one yel­low card. I would like for some­one to ex­plain that to me. [Also] why Kyle Walker is not here to­day, and why Ster­ling can­not play against Liver­pool.”

Mendy of­fered his own unique take on the drama. “Who doesn’t love a lucky 97th-minute win­ner and crowd­sur­fung?!” he wrote on Twit­ter. Even Bournemouth man­ager Ed­die Howe could sym­pa­thise over the first send­ing-off in Ster­ling’s ca­reer: “no one wants to see red cards like that,” he said.

It was Sir Alex Fer­gu­son who once said a late win­ner was worth so much more in mo­men­tum for ti­tle-chas­ing teams than just the two added points and, judg­ing by the deliri­ous scenes here in the 97th minute, Manch­ester City’s sea­son has lift-off.

Not for the per­for­mance – which was again un­con­vinc­ing de­spite 70 per cent pos­ses­sion – but for how Ra­heem Ster­ling clinched a vic­tory with a de- flected win­ner. If City felt ag­grieved by the cir­cum­stances that sur­rounded their draw against Ever­ton on Mon­day, they had two big doses of good for­tune here in a chaotic finale to a match filled with in­ci­dent and con­tro­versy.

Only five min­utes of added time had ini­tially been sig­nalled by fourth of­fi­cial Lee Probert and, with Ster­ling then be­ing sent off for a sec­ond book­ing af­ter cel­e­brat­ing his win­ner with the City fans, the match ul­ti­mately spanned fully 99 min­utes.

Ster­ling’s ear­lier book­ing had only ar­rived in the 93rd minute and Dean’s rigid ap­pli­ca­tion of the laws will spark con­sid­er­able de­bate. He achieved the rare feat here of be­ing crit­i­cised by both man­agers.

Pep Guardi­ola did not hide be­hind the re­sult in ac­knowl­edg­ing his City team’s de­fi­cien­cies and, per­haps try­ing just a bit too hard to be mag­nan­i­mous, ac­tu­ally de­scribed Bournemouth as the bet­ter team. That was prob­a­bly a stretch, but it was cer­tainly true that ei­ther side could have won.

Guardi­ola was prob­a­bly also re­lieved the late drama rather de­flected from his ear­lier de­ci­sion to drop Ser­gio Aguero from his start­ing team, even af­ter the Ar­gentina striker had scored in each of his last six league games. The City fans still made their feel­ings known with chants in ap­pre­ci­a­tion of Aguero af­ter Ster­ling’s win­ning goal.

It all leaves Bournemouth with­out a point go­ing into the in­ter­na­tional break but with at least the very clear sense that they have re­cap­tured the sort of per­for­mance that helped them fin­ish ninth last sea­son. Man­ager Ed­die Howe had ear­lier re­or­gan­ised his team in an at­tempt to start strik­ers Jer­main De­foe and Josh King to­gether for the first time this sea­son and be­gan with wing-backs and three in both cen­tral de­fence and mid­field. He felt that was im­por­tant to dis­rupt City’s flu­ent pass­ing rhythm and they be­gan ex­tremely well, his play­ers press­ing at a fe­ro­cious in­ten­sity and also dis­tribut­ing the ball with real pre­ci­sion.

They had Manch­ester City on the back foot when­ever they at­tacked but it re­quired a very spe­cial mo­ment to take the lead. Vin­cent Kom­pany had just headed a cross back out of the penalty area to ap­par­ent safety but it bounced per­fectly into the path of Char­lie Daniels. The sub­se­quent halfvolleyed shot from what looked like an

im­pos­si­ble an­gle was struck with such power that not only was it past Eder­son be­fore he could prop­erly re­act but was still ris­ing as it went into the goal off the un­der­side of the cross­bar. It was the sort of spec­tac­u­lar strike – Tony Ye­boah-style – that sends a mo­men­tary gasp around the crowd be­fore the rap­tur­ous cel­e­bra­tions.

City did then move up through the gears and pro­duced ar­guably their best spell of the sea­son so far in cre­at­ing nu­mer­ous chances as well as dom­i­nat­ing pos­ses­sion be­tween the 20th minute and half-time. Gabriel Je­sus, who was lead­ing the at­tack ahead of Aguero, took a quick free-kick af­ter be­ing fouled by Nathan Ake and he was in turn then put clear on goal fol­low­ing a beau­ti­fully weighted David Silva pass. Je­sus had clev­erly got his body in front of Ake as he ran across goal to col­lect the ball be­fore de­liv­er­ing a deft first­time fin­ish past As­mir Be­govic.

It was his eighth goal in 11 league starts and he soon missed chances to im­prove that ra­tio. Ben­jamin Mendy crossed into his path but he shot wide and was then again clear of the pon­der­ous Ake be­fore be­ing tripped.

It was not a dan­ger­ous chal­lenge but a clear goalscor­ing op­por­tu­nity and Ake was for­tu­nate to es­cape with only a cau­tion from Dean. “They told me it was not a clear ac­tion but I would like it ex­plained,” said Guardi­ola, who is clearly deeply ag­grieved just now with the gen­eral ref­er­ee­ing of his team.

He later also claimed that teams with most pos­ses­sion were get­ting play­ers sent off and stressed that Je­sus had been de­nied a clear goalscor­ing chance. “It’s not the same to play 10 against 11 – I have my ex­pe­ri­ence against Ever­ton,” he added.

City had fur­ther chances to go in ahead at half-time through Danilo’s ad­ven­tur­ous runs for­ward from right­back, but he could only force a low block by Be­govic be­fore shoot­ing wide. Bournemouth, though, were able to re­pro­duce their fast start to the match im­me­di­ately af­ter half-time and soon came within inches of re­gain­ing the lead. Harry Arter had found King in space in­side City’s penalty area and, although goal­keeper Eder­son did not get near the sub­se­quent shot, it can­noned off the in­side of the post.

City then also soon hit the post af­ter Ota­mendi’s tow­er­ing header back across goal had beaten Be­govic. Guardi­ola brought on Aguero in the 66th minute, while Howe took off De­foe, but both sides were still tak­ing chances in search of the win. An Aguero free-kick went nar­rowly wide be­fore King again broke clear for Bournemouth and forced a save by Eder­son when he also had sup­port­ing team-mates in space.

City launched one fi­nal fran­tic at­tack and, as the ball fell to Ster­ling in the penalty area, An­drew Sur­man raced back in an at­tempt to block his shot. Ul­ti­mately, it can­noned awk­wardly into the air and bob­bled over Be­govic to dra­mat­i­cally de­cide the game.

Flash­point: A po­lice­man speaks to Ser­gio Aguero af­ter the crowd melee

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