Saturday 22 July 2017

City go second as Sterling service keeps title race alive

Bournemouth 0 Man City 2

Raheem Sterling wheels away after giving Manchester City the lead Picture: Getty
Raheem Sterling wheels away after giving Manchester City the lead Picture: Getty

Jason Burt

This was Sterling stuff, or rather Raheem Sterling stuff, from Manchester City as they overwhelmed Bournemouth and closed the gap on Premier League leaders Chelsea to eight points.

It remains a formidable enough advantage but such is the sense of gathering momentum around Pep Guardiola's side that this title race could still turn interesting as City glided up to second place.

The result leaves Bournemouth looking over their shoulders and still seeking a win since New Year's Day but there were clear signs they still have enough to fight to stay up.

Can City win it? Probably the gap is too great but there was some scintillating football here led by Sterling, supported by Leroy Sane. The former scored and set up the other goal.

City really can be devastating in attack. With 13 games to go they still have to travel to Stamford Bridge - indeed they face four of the leading six - but following a weekend in which it was feared the title race was over, someone has emerged in Chelsea's slipstream.

As the temperature dropped there was a polar opposite feel to the direction of these two teams of late. City on the up; Bournemouth on the slide.

Still, under the lights, a big boy in town, this was the perfect opportunity for Bournemouth to summon the spirit of performances here against Arsenal and, more so, Liverpool.

Tempo

The early tempo, though, was inevitable and had Sterling more deftly cushioned a superb angled pass from Fernandinho - deployed at left-back - he would have had a clear shot at goal. Instead the ball ran to goalkeeper Artur Boruc.

Gabriel Jesus was taken off early, having landed heavily on an ankle as he attempted to reach a cross. So on came Sergio Aguero, who had again been consigned to the bench.

The change seemed to knock City's tempo, temporarily, with Bournemouth then almost breaking through with a smart one-two involving Jack Wilshere and Jordon Ibe on the edge of the penalty area. The latter wriggled through only to be thwarted by a sharp intervention from goalkeeper Willy Caballero, who blocked with his legs.

A slip by Adam Smith then allowed Sane, who had latched on to David Silva's astute pass, to tee up Sterling, who fired goalwards only for Steve Cook to throw himself with the ball rebounding off his legs against a post and then being hacked away by Charlie Daniels. Soon after Yaya Toure arced a side-foot shot narrowly wide.

A goal was coming. Cook stretched to cut out another Sane cross, which behind him substitute Tyrone Mings would have easily cleared, only to divert the ball into the path of Sterling who, at the far post, steered it into the net.

Bournemouth thought they had quickly claimed an equaliser as Josh King swept home Ibe's low cross but the striker was penalised for pulling back John Stones in the build-up as he ran beyond the defender.

More goals seemed certain with Boruc saving alertly from Silva, while Bournemouth also pushed with only Aleksandar Kolarov's sliding intervention preventing the dangerous King from turning home Ryan Fraser's cross.

On half-time there was another enforced change with Wilshere unable to carry on having hurt himself in a tackle earlier on.

His replacement, Benik Afobe, was caught by Toure, who could easily have received a second yellow card. Encouraged, Bournemouth put City under greater pressure with Ibe running at Fernandinho only for Silva to nick the ball away from Afobe as he shaped to shoot from the cutback. With the striker on, the home side had an even more attacking feel and the match became yet more open.

It also meant Bournemouth were vulnerable to City's rapid counter-attacks and Aguero, Silva and Kevin De Bruyne led them forward with only strong defending from Mings, Smith and Harry Arter denying the visitors.

Curling

Finally, at the other end, Bournemouth forced Caballero into a save following another strong run by Afobe, cutting in from the left to tee up Arter whose curling shot was pushed away by the goalkeeper.

It remained hugely competitive, in the balance, and the caution count racked up.

Inevitably, given the focus on him, it was Aguero with a predatory finish, even if the final touch came off the boot of Mings.

Fernandinho sent the ball wide to Sterling who ran at Smith, tricking his way past him superbly to reach the byline and cross low. Aguero stretched to turn the ball goalwards, with Mings trying to block but only forcing it past Boruc.

City went close when Fernandinho headed over at the far post from a free-kick before the impressive Sane went even closer as he seized on Mings's error to drive a rising shot that pinged off the crossbar before he skimmed a low effort wide. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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