Silva service and Aguero steel makes difference in City victory
Bournemouth 1 Manchester City 3
This was a silk and steel performance from Manchester City yesterday. On the occasion of his 400th appearance David Silva provided the silk and, with his 399th and 400th goals for club and country, Sergio Aguero supplied the rapier-like steel.
There was a sharp edge elsewhere from the champions as they eventually defeated a Bournemouth side who, with Philip Billing and Jefferson Lerma in the centre of midfield, actually threatened to physically dominate them on occasions.
But Pep Guardiola's team do not mind mixing it - from a tactical foul just inside his own half by Oleksandr Zinchenko in the first minute to two lunges by Kyle Walker, both at Nathan Ake.
He should have been booked for the first by Andre Marriner but the referee was lenient which, if he had not been, would have made upending the Bournemouth defender minutes later even more fretful for Walker. The right-back could have been dismissed.
As, or at least according to the baying Bournemouth fans, could Ederson in the first half as he came charging out of goal to catch Callum Wilson when the striker chased down a through ball. Again the card was yellow.
Given the ease with which City have dominated their recent meetings, a record Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe admitted he was not proud of, this was a far different encounter. Which is where David Silva steps in; where he makes the difference.
Clearly Kevin De Bruyne is emerging as his successor just as, arguably, Raheem Sterling may be able to take the striker's mantle from Aguero, but in what is his final season at City it was another peerless performance from the Spaniard.
"David in this kind of game - with a defence so deep and with such few spaces - is so good. He's one of the best players I've ever seen," Guardiola said and the manager may well have a campaign of repeating such eulogies before David Silva, now 33, leaves at the end of the season. "He has a sense, a move between the lines like no one else in the world - he is a fighter."
For all of the riches in City's squad and team, the central importance of two players who arrived in the first flush of Abu Dhabi investment remains. David Silva signed for City nine years ago with Aguero arriving the following summer and both have already acquired legendary status at the club where they are now the longest-serving players.
"I follow David Silva and score," Aguero said which is a wise policy and even though David Silva did not directly deliver the 31-year-old striker's first goal he was inevitably involved.
It was from his smart pass that Zinchenko crossed, De Bruyne miscued and the ball ran to the Argentine who took a touch - a vital, cushioning, killer's touch - and stroked the ball home. Bournemouth suffered the blow of losing Charlie Daniels to injury with the defender clutching his right knee after he crumpled to the turf while crossing the ball.
After a long delay the defender was carried off and the prognosis did not look good for a player who has only just recovered from a serious knee injury.
The only comfort was it was not the same knee. "It's potentially serious with the amount of pain he was in. We're concerned for him, yes," Howe said.
Daniels' replacement, Harry Wilson, made a difference, though, as Bournemouth reshuffled with Fraser going to left wing-back. It was from Wilson's cross that Nicolas Otamendi chested the ball down, expecting Ederson to collect, only for Adam Smith to steal in with his close-range, goal-bound shot striking the goalkeeper in the face and deflecting just over.
Once again David Silva stepped up as Aymeric Laporte drove the ball to the right wing where it was collected by Bernardo Silva. He quickly found the City captain, who threaded a pass for Sterling to run onto, away from Smith, take two touches and poke past goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale for his fifth goal of the season.
On the touchline Guardiola did not even take his hands out of his pockets. If that suggested a certain insouciance then Bournemouth shook that from him as, deep into first-half injury time, they hit back after a free-kick was won and Wilson stood over it. Thirty yards out he whipped it left-footed into the top left-hand corner of Ederson's goal. Little wonder Josh King held his head in almost disbelief as Wilson reeled away in celebration. On loan from Liverpool, would the 22-year-old be the story?
"Incredible goal," Howe said. "I saw him doing it so many times [on loan] for Derby last year in big games for them. We needed that lift at that time."
Bournemouth did but this was already far more threatening from them than when they failed to register a shot or even win a corner against City here last season and when Callum Wilson got in behind Laporte they had the chance to draw level only for Ederson to divert the shot away.
Again David Silva intervened. Ramsdale beat out an effort from him, then he should have earned a penalty after being clipped by Lerma - only for the VAR to uphold Marriner's decision not to award it - before his quick feet made the difference one more time as he held off Ake, with the ball running to Aguero who toe-ended it past the goalkeeper. Two more assists for David Silva and all three City goals were tap-ins, again showing how extraordinary they are at creating such chances.
Even after that Bournemouth did not relent with chances falling to substitute Dominic Solanke, including an injury-time save by Ederson. "A few things to improve," Guardiola said ruefully afterwards as City moved up to second place, two points behind Liverpool. But no improvement needed for David Silva or Aguero on this form. (© Daily Telegraph, London)