Sterling rises to occasion, keeps City in title mix
A goal from Raheem Sterling and an own goal from Tyrone Mings gave Manchester City a 2-0 win against Bournemouth and lifted them from sixth to second place in the Premier League on a blustery Monday night at the Vitality Stadium.
Pep Guardiola’s side closed the gap on Chelsea to eight points and kept alive their hopes of the title, despite their Spanish manager ruling out the possibility following his team’s 4-0 defeat at Everton last month.
But three league wins in a row have reignited City’s season with FA Cup and Champions League games to come in the next eight days as Sergio Aguero issued a timely reminder of his attacking prowess after coming on as an early substitute for the injured Gabriel Jesus.
“We made a real performance. I am so pleased with how we did and especially the last 10-15 minutes, we did the right way to make the result with a thousand million passes,” Guardiola told the BBC.
He said they would only know the extent of Jesus’ injury on Tuesday.
“Hopefully it won’t be for a long time — I will pray tonight — we will have to wait until tomorrow,” said the 46-year-old, who refused to accept the title was still on as the gap to Chelsea he said was still ‘massive’.
His Bournemouth counterpart Eddie Howe has seen his side’s form deteriorate since the turn of the year — they are yet to win in 2017 and lie only six points above the relegation zone.
“We have to be positive. We go into a break in the Premier League calendar and have to come back refreshed and ready to fight for our league survival,” he told Sky Sports.
City fans hoping to see Jesus add to his scintillating start for the club were disappointed as the Brazilian lasted only 14 minutes before being replaced by Aguero after turning his ankle.
It gave Aguero an opportunity to show some form amidst speculation he could be regarded as surplus to requirements with the arrival of Jesus.
The first real chance went to Bournemouth after 19 minutes.
A swift one-two between Jack Wilshere and Jordon Ibe saw the latter through on goal but goalkeeper Willy Caballero smothered the ball with his legs.
– ‘They had City rattled’ –
Bournemouth then suffered a blow when their captain, Simon Francis, who had been doubtful for the match, left the field to an injury.
City almost went ahead immediately after that when Leroy Sane crossed for Sterling whose shot was deflected onto the post by Steve Cook.
Sterling could not believe his luck but he did not have long to dwell on his disappointment.
Just three minutes later, Sane crossed again and this time Steve Cook deflected the ball into the path of Sterling who smashed in at the far post for his fifth Premier League goal against Bournemouth, the most he has scored against a single opponent.
Minutes later, Josh King thought he had equalised but referee Neil Swarbrick ruled out his goal for pulling John Stones’ shirt in the build up.
Bournemouth felt aggrieved though they had City rattled and, when Jack Wilshere also withdrew through injury, Howe replaced him with Benik Afobe, a striker as he sensed an opportunity.
Though City continued to impress on the break, with Sane in particular causing the Cherries problems, Bournemouth kept threatening.
Afobe passed to Harry Arter whose curling shot was tipped round the post by Caballero following some neat approach work from the home side.
However, City went down the other end and killed it off as a contest.
Fernandinho fed Sterling down the City left and he bamboozled Adam Smith with a series of step-overs before crossing for Aguero who poked home via the toe of Mings.