Valiant Cherries lose at City
- Stuart Attwell
AFC Bournemouth put in a strong showing against champions Manchester City, were level at the break, but second-half goals saw them fall to a 3-1 away defeat at the Etihad Stadium.
Bernardo Silva opened the scoring for the hosts when he pounced on a rebound following Asmir Begovic's save, though before the break Callum Wilson levelled with a precise header, the first goal City have conceded from open play in three months.
In-form Raheem Sterling reacted quickest to restore the home side's lead after the restart, and after the home side had fended off a good stint of pressure from the Cherries they scored a third when Ilkay Gundogan slotted how a third from a bouncing cross, the goal quashing away chances of an away point.
Ahead of a big week of Premier League action with home game with Huddersfield and Liverpool to come, there was some switching to the Cherries' line-up at the Etihad. Most notably, a switch to a back three meant Tyrone Mings came in for his first league minutes of the campaign.
City's speed was evident right from the off, inside the opening minute Leroy Sane whistled down the left, only Begovic's sharp intervention from his cross averting Gabriel Jesus from having an early opening.
The Cherries soon crafted a fine chance of their own, a well-taken corner routine seeing Ryan Fraser tearing along the byline and pulling back but just behind Callum Wilson who couldn't turn the ball on target from close range.
While the champions were enjoying the expected lion's share of possession, the away side were doing far more than just sitting in, breaking and finding promising areas, until on 15 minutes City took the lead.
A searching Oleksandr Zinchenko ball over the top found Sane's searing run and while Begovic was quickly out to smother the German's poked attempt Silva followed up and blasted the ball home from ten yards.
There followed a lull with Bournemouth holding their shape well and allowing little room for manoeuvre in attack, with the visitors continuing to be active on the counter.
One break almost ended with an equaliser, Charlie Daniels' sharp ball down the line for Joshua King finding the Norwegian in room. His inswinging ball was intended for Wilson but when he couldn't get the touch 'keeper Ederson had to make a good diving save to keep the cross out of his net.
King went close again moments later when he received the ball in the area from Fraser, struck goalwards but saw his shot blocked when it appeared to have a chance of finding the net.
But the Cherries then had the goal their play had merited, Wilson's brilliant header squaring matters just ahead of half time.
Some further positive build-up worked the ball to Simon Francis by the right apex, the skipper electing to cross inwards with his left boot and flighting perfectly for Wilson who sprang to redirect the ball back across the 'keeper, who couldn't keep it out.
The away side returned from the interval in a similar vein, Wilson and King combining with the latter's dinked centre very nearly creeping in at the back post.
Sterling moved towards centre stage as he jinked in from the right flank, beating man after man before his finish deflected onto the post, defender's quickly converging to clear their lines.
The home pressure was building again and Sterling was the man in the right place at the right time to restore the hosts' lead before the hour mark.
The England winger started the move, passing to Danilo and once the Brazil international's shot was parried Sterling pounced to slot home the rebound.
Fernandinho missed the far post by inches after Jesus found his captain on the edge of the box, but chasing a second leveller the Cherries were asking serious questions of the City defence and when Daniels flicked a header towards Wilson a clean connection from the striker close in might have restored parity.
Difficult to contain, City stretched their advantage when from a corner Sane found space at the byline and centre for Gundogan to convert from eight yards, ten minutes from time.
Sane's trickery threatened a fourth as the clock clicked towards the 90th minute, the German carving room for a shot but Begovic diverting the ball over with his shoulder.
A couple of late attacks saw the Cherries come not too far from a second but Ederson commanded his area to ensure his side retained their two-goal lead to the referee's final whistle.
Attacking outlook pushes the champs
Despite the Etihad being one of the most difficult places to play, the Cherries performed well and had spells where they had their much-decorated hosts on the back foot.
Wing-backs Francis and Daniels were quick to join attacks down the flanks, Fraser was his usual bundle of energy and Wilson continually chased and harried the City backline. The England striker's equalising goal was just desserts for one such fine spell on a day when Pep Guardiola's side were given a stern test on their own turf.
Mings marks return
For Tyrone Mings it was a first league start since the last day of last season, and only his second since September 2017, the 25-year-old coming into a back three as the Cherries altered their approach to try and stifle the high-flying champions.
Coming in to keep things tight against City was never going to be the easiest of tasks, but Mings showed discipline as well as pace and positional understanding on occasions on his return.