Gun­do­gan adds gloss to put City five points clear

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - SOCCER - PAUL WIL­SON

Manch­ester City Bournemouth

AWEAKENED and slightly laboured Manch­ester City still man­aged to open a five-point gap at the top of the Premier League, a warn­ing to the rest of the com­pe­ti­tion that even with big names miss­ing they can still keep up their scor­ing av­er­age of three goals per game.

City do func­tion bet­ter when David Silva is in­volved, how­ever, and though the Spain mid­fielder only came on for the last 13 min­utes, it was enough to make the point.

Pep Guardi­ola rested sev­eral key play­ers fol­low­ing City’s mid­week ex­er­tions against Lyon, though the home side re­tained enough pace to trou­ble Bournemouth in the form of Leroy Sané and Raheem Ster­ling on the flanks. The former was par­tic­u­larly ef­fec­tive in the first half of the game, reg­u­larly run­ning on to well struck passes from Ilkay Gün­do­gan or Olek­sandr Zinchenko to find space be­hind Bournemouth’s flat­tish back five.

The first goal ar­rived in just such a man­ner, Zinchenko aim­ing a ball into the penalty area for Sané to at­tempt to reach first. The winger man­aged to stay on­side and sprint clear of the Bournemouth de­fend­ers, and though As­mir Be­govic left his line to try to cut out the dan­ger, the goal­keeper was un­able to make a clean catch be­cause Sané was in such close at­ten­dance.

Be­govic suc­ceeded in clear­ing the im­me­di­ate threat from Sané but only at the ex­pense of push­ing the ball to Bernardo Silva, who un­hesi­tat­ingly swept the ball into an empty net from close to the penalty spot.

Eder­son, in the City goal, is cur­rently ri­valling David De Gea at Old Traf­ford for min­utes spent merely watch­ing games with­out be­ing di­rectly in­volved, but like his coun­ter­part at Manch­ester United he keeps up his con­cen­tra­tion so as to be ready when called upon.

Bournemouth might have equalised a few min­utes be­fore Cal­lum Wil­son brought them level when the same player got on the end of a Josh King cross, though his touch was hardly em­phatic and the hith­erto un­em­ployed Eder­son made a sprawl­ing save. Wil­son made amends for the miss a minute be­fore the in­ter­val, this time get­ting above Ni­colás Ota­mendi and Danilo to meet Si­mon Fran­cis’s cross and give Eder­son lit­tle chance with a firm and well-placed header.

Turn­ing round level was no more than Bournemouth de­served. City had en­joyed more than two-thirds of the first-half posses­sion but with­out David Silva seemed short of ideas of how to use it. Gabriel Je­sus was in­con­spic­u­ous as an at­tack­ing spear­head, and too many of the home side’s at­tempted at­tacks broke down on the edge of the area.

Bournemouth grad­u­ally clawed their way back into the game as if sur­prised at how lightly they were be­ing al­lowed to get off. As Ryan Fraser and An­drew Surman be­gan to pass the ball around City’s 18yard line, gaps started to ap­pear, and as the in­ter­val ap­proached Bournemouth were at­tack­ing with the sort of con­vic­tion that even­tu­ally brought a re­ward.

Ed­die Howe’s team be­gan the sec­ond half brightly too, with Wil­son straight away get­ting ahead of Aymeric La­porte to set up a chance for King. City went down the field to hit the post at the other end, Ster­ling end­ing an ad­ven­tur­ous drib­ble with a slightly tame shot that de­flected off Steve Cook to strike an up­right.

Un­de­terred, Ster­ling started and fin­ished City’s sec­ond goal just be­fore the hour, first set­ting up Danilo for a shot, then mov­ing up to tuck away the re­bound when the winger’s ef­fort was blocked by a com­bi­na­tion of Be­govic and Nathan Aké.

Even when back in the lead City showed signs of eas­ing up once again, so Guardi­ola sent on David Silva just to be on the safe side. It was a shrewd move. The sub­sti­tute had been on the field pre­cisely two min­utes when he came up with the pass of the match, free­ing Sané to cross from the goalline and leave Gün­do­gan an easy close-range fin­ish.

Cal­lum Wil­son of Bournemouth heads home his side’s only goal against Manch­ester City. Photo: Clive Brun­skill

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