BLUES FIND A DIF­FER­ENT WAY – WITH SAME RE­SULT

Guardi­ola’s men show re­silience to put Cher­ries to sword...

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HAV­ING left most Eti­had visitors spell­bound this sea­son City show­cased their more re­silient streak in beat­ing Bournemouth.

Th­ese games are the muck and net­tles of the Pre­mier League sea­son. City won’t al­ways daz­zle, they sim­ply can’t given the work­load. But they can find dif­fer­ent ways of win­ning and they had to do that against the Cher­ries.

If their ti­tle ri­vals were hop­ing that th­ese kind of days would de­rail City’s chal­lenge, they were to be left bit­terly dis­ap­pointed.

In the early stages of a run of 13 games in 44 days Pep Guardi­ola had sug­gested changes were afoot and he was true to his word, mak­ing five.

It was an un­usu­ally bold ap­proach from the City boss, who usu­ally keeps the al­ter­ations to a min­i­mum.

The depth his squad was al­ways go­ing to be tested. With Kevin De Bruyne and Ben­jamin Mendy al­ready out, and Ser­gio Aguero un­avail­able to a mi­nor mus­cle prob­lem, the Cata­lan would have been re­lieved to have Ilkay Gun­do­gan, Bernardo Silva and Gabriel Je­sus avail­able.

While Je­sus suf­fered an­other frus­trat­ing af­ter­noon, high­light­ing the pres­sure on Aguero’s shoul­ders, Gun­do­gan and Bernardo both found the back of the net to sug­gest this squad has the depth to main­tain a chal­lenge on all four fronts deep into the win­ter.

The foot­ball was never go­ing to flow as freely with so many fresh faces though. City strug­gled to get the en­gine warm against Ed­die Howe’s side, par­tic­u­larly in a dis­ap­point­ing first half. They took the lead thanks to the in­di­vid­ual qual­ity that City can rely on when the col­lec­tive ap­proach isn’t work­ing, but it came from an un­likely source.

Olek­sandr Zinchenko, at left back, had been tar­geted by the visitors as the weak link in City’s de­fence, but he chipped a del­i­cate pass into Leroy Sane’s path and when As­mir Be­govic shut the an­gle down, Bernardo put the re­bound be­tween two men on the line from eight yards.

But Bournemouth cot­toned on to City’s slug­gish­ness late in the first half. Josh King twice went close be­fore Cal­lum Wil­son looped a header be­yond Eder­son from Si­mon Fran­cis’ cross. It was Raheem Sterling, in­creas­ingly be­com­ing City’s go-to man, that turned the game back in the Blues’ favour.

First a shot was de­flected onto the post but mo­ments later he made no mis­take. As Be­govic spilt Danilo’s low drive, Sterling, who had played the ini­tial pass to the right-back, fired the re­bound home.

Nerves were fray­ing but City re­stored the usual level of calm as Gun­do­gan’s last goal clinched the game and came at the end of a 44-pass move. This time he was on hand to con­vert Leroy Sane’s low cross and make sure one po­ten­tial banana skin was avoided.

●● Leroy Sane has re­turned to his daz­zling best

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