Bournemouth vs Manchester City. Premier League.
Report and free match highlights as Manchester City provide a reminder of their title credentials with a ruthless 4-1 victory over Bournemouth to move two points behind Arsenal; Julian Alvarez, Erling Haaland and Phil Foden all score in first half before Chris Mepham's own goal
Saturday 25 February 2023 20:37, UK
Manchester City moved back to within two points of Premier League leaders Arsenal with a convincing 4-1 win over Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium on Saturday Night Football.
City took the lead after 15 minutes, Julian Alvarez stealing in to fire home from a yard out after Erling Haaland's effort had come back off the crossbar (15).
Man City doubled their lead when Nathan Ake released Ilkay Gundogan down the left, and as his ball into the middle came off Phil Foden it fell to Haaland to tap home from close range (29). Haaland's 27th goal of the season is more than Sergio Aguero managed in a single Premier League campaign at City.
City put the game seemingly beyond Bournemouth when Philip Billing played a lazy, aimless pass square across the pitch from the touchline. The alert Foden pounced on it, advanced on Neto's goal and rolled the ball beyond the goalkeeper (45).
City made it four just after half-time, Rico Lewis put in a good cross from the right which was cleared, but only as far as Foden, whose whipped ball in was blasted against Chris Mepham by Alvarez for an own goal (51).
Jefferson Lerma met Jordan Zemura's deflected cross to rifle in a late consolation for Bournemouth (83), who sit in 19th place, a point adrift of safety after victories for Leeds and West Ham earlier on Saturday.
Bournemouth: Neto (6), Smith (6), Stephens (6), Mepham (5), Senesi (6), Zemura (7), Ouattara (6), Lerma (7), Billing (5), Traore (5), Solanke (5).
Subs: Fredericks (6), Rothwell (6), Anthony (n/a).
Man City: Ederson (7), Lewis (8), Akanji (6), Dias (7), Ake (7), Gundogan (8), Rodri (7), Foden (8), Alvarez (8), Grealish (6), Haaland (7).
Subs: Perrone (6), Walker (n/a), Phillips (5), Gomez (6), Mahrez (6).
Player of the match: Ilkay Gundogan.
It all went according to plan for Pep Guardiola - certainly in the first half. Bournemouth will take some comfort from their second-half exertions, but City are back in business.
They opened the scoring after 15 minutes, the move beginning with a fine challenge by Lewis, who started on the right of City's midfield for his 11th appearance in the league, to win the ball out near the touchline.
From there, Gundogan played it up to Foden, who was thwarted as he shaped to shoot but instead worked the ball to Haaland. After the striker's effort smacked the underside of the crossbar, there was Alvarez, first onto the rebound to fire home from a yard out.
The second goal was not long in coming. As Bournemouth pushed forward, Ake won back possession and released Gundogan escaping down the left.
His ball into the middle again found Foden, who was knocked off it by Jordan Zemura. The defender's intervention was in vain though, Haaland stealing in to tap home the loose ball to double City's lead.
The visitors were cruising and had wrapped the game up before the break. The third goal was a calamity all of Bournemouth's own doing.
Billing failed to properly look up and played a lazy, aimless pass, square across the pitch from the touchline which was pounced upon by Foden, alert to the opportunity, leaving him with the simple task of advancing on Neto's goal and rolling the ball beyond the goalkeeper.
The Cherries were falling apart and their hopes of keeping the score respectable received a blow five minutes into the second half.
Lewis put in a good cross from the right which was cleared, but only as far as Foden, whose whipped ball in was blasted against Mepham by Alvarez for an own goal.
The hosts, for their troubles, fought gamely to pull a goal back, a goalmouth scramble midway through the second half leading to a VAR check for handball which ultimately did not yield a penalty.
City, though, were not in the mood to show mercy and as Bournemouth tired, the onslaught continued.
Riyad Mahrez came off the bench and picked up where the breathless Jack Grealish had left off. The England midfielder put in another outstanding performance as he looked increasingly at home as a regular starter for City.
Lerma's goal seven minutes from time - blasted into the roof of the net after a silky first touch - gave the freezing home support something to cheer but it did little to take the gloss off City's day.
Man City boss Pep Guardiola:
"Considering the amount of games and a lot of travel we played incredibly aggressive. Our attack was more dynamic and we got a good result.
"Rico Lewis, I rely on him a lot since he came in and made his debut, his quality and intelligence. He is a fantastic player. We are delighted to have him, a player from our academy.
"He moves in small spaces, to play in pockets that we need he is unique. He is really good at that.
"Erling Haaland, his impact has been incredible. We love him and he is helping us, today we found him more and he is an incredible threat. We need Phil [Foden] - his work ethic, his goals, his assists. Step by step he will be back."
Bournemouth boss Gary O'Neil:
"In terms of effort and endeavour and the response to going behind, we were on the front foot and you could feel from the fans that they were on board with the type of performance we put in.
"We just came up a little bit short against a very good team. It was an interesting test for them at half-time because you feel the game is done.
"The second half needed to be a response and we showed the world how we can perform. The fourth goal could've killed the boys off but we still created opportunities.
"I'm disappointed that we didn't score a couple more. When you're a player, you've get to reflect on these games and see the level City are at. There's a lot I will take from today and build on the positives."
Sky Sports' Ben Grounds:
"Is City's cloak of invincibility slipping? It has been asked this past week. It was questioned whether Pep Guardiola no longer has a harmonious dressing room.
"When the cracks have emerged in title rivals before, City have gone into overdrive. Not this season. It is they who have left the door ajar. It is not the City we have become accustomed to.
"So they came to the Vitality Stadium to take the points and to make one at the same time. Three unanswered first-half goals from Julian Alvarez, Erling Haaland and Phil Foden blew Bournemouth away.
"After a winless midweek in Europe, Pep Guardiola's side delivered the response he wants. Certainly in terms of the first 80 minutes of this match. Pep, ever the perfectionist, will be disappointed to lose the clean sheet so late on.
Four of Julian Alvarez's five Premier League goals for Manchester City this season have come against newly-promoted sides. Each of his five goals have come in his six starts in the competition, with this his first league goal away from home.
"Kevin De Bruyne, who missed the Leipzig game through illness, was fit enough only for the substitutes bench - but it was the use of Rico Lewis which allowed Ilkay Gundogan to decide this match before the interval.
"Speaking afterwards, Lewis said: 'I got my rhythm quickly and did as well as I could. Pep just tells me to play my normal game but asks me to go inside alongside Rodri, to give us more control of the midfield. It's about winning the ball back on the transition. It's nice that he wants to play me and trusts me, it's up to me to perform.'
"Lewis has not started a game, nor been used at all, since City were beaten at Tottenham earlier this month, but it was his ability to cut inside which would allow Gundogan license to drift forward - De Bruyne-like - and cause so much damage.
"Foden helped himself to a goal and an assist in the first half, as did Haaland - onto 27 PL goals which surpasses Aguero as the most in a single Premier League season for City - with 13 games still to play. Big moments for big players.
"Foden's only other goal since the World Cup came in the convincing 4-0 win over Chelsea in the third round of the FA Cup. For Haaland, it was just his second in his last seven games to quieten the noise around whether City are getting the best out of him. They face Newcastle next up at the Etihad - it is as you were in the title race."
Sky Sports' Andy Hinchcliffe:
"I have to give a special mention for the performance of Rico Lewis as he has been excellent in giving Manchester City that extra man in midfield. It allowed Ilkay Gundogan to cause so much damage in a free role, especially in that first half. He goes under the radar sometimes."
Bournemouth's next game is away to title-chasing Arsenal on Saturday; kick-off 3pm. Gary O'Neil's side then host Liverpool on Saturday March 11; kick-off 12.30pm.
Manchester City will now switch their focus to the FA Cup, where they face a trip to Bristol City on Tuesday; kick-off 8pm. Pep Guardiola's side then host top-four hopefuls Newcastle on Saturday; kick-off 12.30pm.