Aguero is cleared of hitting steward
Bournemouth agree City striker did nothing wrong Sterling is sent off after players celebrate with fans
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“The club have been advised that due to a misunderstanding, an earlier statement alleging assault has been withdrawn and no assault took place.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