Date: 13th February 2017 at 10:10pm
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It may have been blustery and bitter on the coast of the English Channel, but Guardiola at least set out to warm the hearts of the City faithful by naming an unchanged side at the Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth, tonight.

Not always a fan of Kolarov at centre-back, I might have been inclined to give Kompany an outing ahead of the FA Cup match at the weekend as this might have given another indication of his fitness, and I was surprised to find the mighty Sergio once again adorning the bench.

There has been much talk this week about where Aguero could be plying his trade next season and none of them seem to point to the Etihad Campus. Although the impact made by the lightning seeds, Sane, Sterling and Jesus, I believe I`m among those who would really like to a revitalised Aguero spring back to action and rediscover his devastating strike rate. It now looks as though that is unlikely and the Mighty Atom could now see himself relegated to the realms of being a cup player, barring injury to the new trio.

Bournemouth are no mugs at home and have given most of the top teams in the Barclays Premier League a fright at the Vitality, so it was up to City to get moving early and take whatever chances arrive in the opening stages.

So, Caballero retained his place in goal, due reward for more or less stemming the goals against column. Stones lined up alongside Kolarov and Sagna with Fernandinho likely to have any role at all. This is the main reason I suspect that ex-Scouser, Ibe finally got a starting berth. Caballero does seem to give the backline a bit more confidence than they feel when Bravo is around.

The balance of City`s midfield was made up of De Bruyne, Yaya and Silva, hopefully and busily supplying the born-again front line.

City`s bench is starting to look substantive. Today, alongside Kompany, Aguero and Bravo, we saw Fernando, Delph, Nolito and Otamendi all of whom can add to or change the way the match might go if needed.

In the absence of a victory so far in 2017, this match might take the appearance of an away bankers, especially if the bookies are to be believed, but generally football is not like that and nobody gets an easy ride in this division. King will have fancied his chances against the Blues back line and Wilshere will have welcomed the chance to pit his wits against “the Big Man”, Yaya Toure. City are Bournemouth`s “bogey team” having been cashed up by goals galore in recent matches against the Blues.

Sane set the trend with the first attack, believing he might catch Boruc off his line, but there was no one home to get in on his cross. For their part, the Cherries did press form midfield with Arter prominent but it looked as though Yaya was once again feeling in the zone and in the mood.

Having said that, his first major tackle saw Yaya yellow carded and after only 13 minutes Gabriel Jesus had to limp to the sidelines after taking a Bournemouth stud to the foot. Cue Sergio Aguero for an entry he probably didn`t expect. Surely he would be fired up to get himself back on the scoresheet? His first effort was typical. With men behind him and De Bruyne appearing free on the edge of the box, he elected to shoot against the defenders.

In the 20 the minute City played themselves into trouble with their “play from the back” and a hurried clearance saw Ibe get the ball and get up a head of steam to bring an excellent save out of Caballero in a one-on-one situation. Bournemouth were going to lie down today despite the fact that a win for City would send them second in the league.

Shortly thereafter Francis relinquished himself from the action with what might have been a hamstring. Mings replaced him.

A great ball by Silva to Sane set up the best chance so far after 26 minutes but Sterling`s shot hit the post and De Bruyne couldn`t cash in on the rebound. A minute later Yaya was inches away with a screamer from the edge of the box. Maybe City were finally starting to buzz. A minute later we got the answer as Silva played the same ball to Sane who played the same ball to Sterling who, this time, made no mistake to score City`s 50th goal of the season.

The Cherries thought they had equalised immediately but in the build up Stones was tugged back by King who gave himself a yard to blast the ball home. A piece of outstanding refereeing by Neil Swarbrick, who had seen the tug when his assistant had not, saw a free kick awarded to City and the scoreboard returned to “nul points” for the home side. Bournemouth were looking lively though and continued to force errors around the pitch from City and the Blues really did need to re-establish some sort of control. They did and a cute cross from Sagna found Aguero in an unflagged offside position, but his shot went into the crowd.

De Bruyne also warmed the crowd after one of the best pieces of skills you`ll see anywhere from Silva. His shot too was wasteful as half time approached. Ahead of the break though Wilshere ploughed the lonely furrow to the bench, seemingly injured in a challenge with Silva, where he may have tugged an ankle ligament. This effectively saw the match reach the break after 5 minutes of stoppage time with City`s lead intact.

Opening the second half, the Cherries went to Ibe to put pressure on Fernandinho and drawing a foul that forced Caballero to punch clear. The had their tails up in the early stages trying to load the City box, refusing to give City an easy exit strategy.

Aguero was looking well of the pace, again going solo with Sane, De Bruyne and Sterling all open. It was disappointing from Sergio who doesn`t look to be buying into Pep`s ideal of playing in he-who-is-better-placed.

Sterling was to once again find himself in the book for an attempted kick at a Bournemouth player on the edge of the home box. City were starting to retain the ball again but time and again Aguero and De Bruyne made the wrong runs and Sane seemed reluctant to run at the last defender when City had the Cherries opened-up. Indeed, Sane was next into the book for a tackle from behind as Bournemouth once again threatened City from deep.

Eddie Howe`s men were certainly varying play going short and sweet then long and deep and they brought another decent save out of Caballero. Keeping up a dangerous tempo but the next time they gave away the ball City made them pay. Stones sent the ball out to Sterling who had changed over to the left. He skipped around the corner and crossed into the six yard box to Aguero who got a touch ahead of Mings who also got a nick before the ball went over the line. Sergio claimed it with an “I`m back” announcement. It looked, however as though the goal would be credited to Mings as an o.g. Sad for Sergio.

Would this finally dilute the excellent effort put in by Bournemouth and allow City to coast to victory. You can never write these lads off until the final whistle. Guardiola took off Yaya to allow Otamendi pushing Kolarov out wide and Fernandinho into a more-accustomed midfield role. Yaya has put in a long series of long shifts in recent weeks so maybe a visit to the bench was a welcome break with the FA Cup and Champions League on the horizon.

Bournemouth had a series of dangerous thro-ins made more of aproblem by Yaya`s absence and now Mings was getting on the end of them. City`s attention to the second ball was much better than the early part of the season. City were also getting into “keep ball mode” to try to take the steam out of a Bournemouth side that worked really hard but in essence looked as though they lacked that touch of class. The Blues didn`t look in any hurry to try to force the issue although the commentaor`s assistant of two faces warned that the Cherries had history of mounting comebacks in matches like this. That said in the next attack Sane outstripped right hand side of their defence only to see his well-hit shot come back off the bar.

A few moments later Kolarov`s power blast was amazingly saved by Boruc and Silva couldn`t put in the rebound but was flagged offside anyway. City were now in the kind of place where they could recover the ball pretty much at will and Bournemouth at last looked like a spent force. The was no shortage of endeavour from the South Coast men but as I said they just needed a little more class to get them back into it and with both Wilshere and Ibe now withdrawn the pace and intellect had gone from their on-field portfolio.

Sterling, nominated as man-of the-match on TV got his ovation in favour of Nolito as the game went into stoppage time. There was still time for Sane to latch on to De Bruyne`s magnificent through ball but his touch for once went astray, as did his shot.

City saw out a match that once again saw Willy Caballero keep another clean sheet as City moved into second place now only eight points behind the leaders with a visit to Stamford Bridge in the not too distant future. Willy has guarded the goal six times now and has helped preside over six wins. Why oh why did we end up with Bravo?

In the end a comfortable victory for City with notable performances all over the pitch especially from Silva who was involved in more or less everything good that City produced. Yaya, too was once again masterful. With Jesus off injured the front line didn`t look as fluid, although it was good to see Aguero get match time in the hope that can get himself back into the kind of goalscoring shape the Blue Mooners know and love.

This was a result the chasing pack needed as it keeps Chelsea just about within touching distance and the weekend has seen the pundits go from “if they beat Burnley the title race is over” to “can City do it again” mirroring what they achieved from poorer positions in 2012 1n 2014.

Liverpool beating Spuds put the cat among the pigeons beating them 2-0 at the weekend, keeping Sue away from the ironing board until Sunday and it was joy to see the idiotic Stretfords in their classless attempts to ridicule Liverpool`s movement to sixth backfire when they found themselves returned to that slot after a comprehensive performance by their Scouse anti-christ.

Indeed when Liverpool next take the field they could be placing Ranieri`s men into the relegation places ahead of their visit to the Etihad. That will be a source of amusement as the Fox and Hounds head for the only prize to escape them?emulating City`s exploits of 1936/37 when they won the First Division only to be relegated the following season. As the Swansea fans sang “Champions of England? You`re having a laugh”.

So atweekend it`s FA Cup time and an away trip to a competent-looking Huddersfield Town where Mooy, on loan from City seems to be the in-form man. There is no truth however that with each ticket there is a free portion of instant mashed potatoes.

 
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