Man City’s nervy win in league’s most one-sided fixture hints at weaknesses

Phil Foden turns to the City fans to celebrate

There is only ever one outcome when Bournemouth come up against the might of Manchester City, although on this occasion the underdogs can at least say they showed plenty of bite. The most one-sided fixture in Premier League history ended as it always does, with three points to City, but it was far from stress-free for Pep Guardiola’s side.

City’s Premier League record against Bournemouth now reads 14 victories from 14 matches. For Guardiola himself, it is 13 wins out of 13 in all competitions, by an aggregate scoreline of 38-7. Overall, this is the most extreme form of dominance. On the night, however, Bournemouth made things unusually difficult for the champions.

Did Bournemouth shine a light on some of City’s weaknesses? The visitors certainly looked vulnerable against an energetic and courageous opponent. Bournemouth were brave and City were more than a little ragged. Guardiola himself appeared on the brink of a meltdown as the game neared its end.

Pep Guardiola
Pep Guardiola's frustration was palpable at the Vitality Stadium - Adam Davy/PA Wire

But for all these moments of panic, City still won the match. That is simply what they do. And once again they were thankful for the goalscoring instincts of Phil Foden, who stepped up when his team needed him.

Few players in Europe are as entertaining as Foden right now and his latest goal, a tap-in, took him to 16 for the season. He has never scored at a faster rate than in this campaign, and here he thrived in a traditional No 10 role. Sometimes coming deep, sometimes running in behind, always posing difficult questions.

“He has become a top-class football player,” said Guardiola. “Before he was a little boy and now he is a world class, top player. He can play everywhere but especially in central positions he is really good.”

It was a match-winning performance from Foden, who was supported as ever by the footballing security blanket that is Rodri. John Stones was also terrific in the defender-midfielder hybrid role that he is perfecting.

John Stones
John Stones excelled in his hybrid role - Adam Davy/PA Wire

Afterwards, Guardiola made a point of praising his players rather than criticising their lack of control. “They are supermen,” he said. “Honestly, I am telling you. Our fans have to be so proud of these guys. Bournemouth had seven days to prepare, seven days of dreaming of beating the best team in the world.”

This has been a strange campaign for Bournemouth, who went seven games unbeaten before the turn of the year but are now another seven matches without a victory. Their form seems to fluctuate over the course of a yawning period of months, rather than weeks.

One aspect of Andoni Iraola’s team that is consistent, though, is their willingness to press high up the pitch without the ball. Unlike so many of City’s opponents, Bournemouth were aggressive with their positioning, on the front-foot from the first minute and attempting to force errors.

The problem with such an approach is that it requires perfection against a team of City’s quality. One mistimed jump, or one moment of hesitation, is usually all that Guardiola’s players need to score a goal.

In this case, City actually required two of those defensive deficiencies to take the lead. For the first, Erling Haaland fired wide of goal after surging onto Foden’s glorious volleyed pass. These are oddly wasteful times for Haaland.

Despite that early opportunity, Bournemouth were largely playing well in the opening exchanges. But there was still a sense of inevitability to it all when Foden struck after 24 minutes, tapping into an empty net after Neto, the Bournemouth goalkeeper, had blocked Haaland’s shot.

Manchester City's Phil Foden scores their first goal
Foden pounces on Neto's save from Haaland to score the match-winner - Action Images via Reuters/Matthew Childs

As interesting as the action on the pitch was the reaction of Guardiola to his team’s efforts. The City manager was not overly impressed by his players before the break, with Mateo Kovacic and Matheus Nunes both receiving a barrage of angry instructions.

Neither player has excelled since joining City last summer and Guardiola spent much of the first half either shouting at them or flailing his arms around in annoyance at their positioning. Such was Guardiola’s irritation at Nunes losing the ball, he kicked a drinks bucket and yelled into the night’s air.

Clearly, he could see the cracks appearing as Bournemouth attacked with enthusiasm. Marcus Tavernier missed one chance, at the back post, and then another from the edge of the penalty box. Dominic Solanke had an opportunity, too, as his header was pushed off the line by Ederson. “We had enough chances to score,” said Iraola. “We were really close to getting something from the game.”

In so many of City’s matches there is an absence of jeopardy. Not this time, as Bournemouth continued to push for an equaliser. It is rare indeed for City to be so ruffled by an opponent of Bournemouth’s stature, although it was typical of the champions that they still left with three points.

Bournemouth 0 Man City 1: as it happened

07:30 PM GMT

FT: Bournemouth 0 Man City 1

De Bruyne has a chance to seal it from Foden’s pass, but he’s unusually indecisive and Scott dispossesses him. No matter: City hold on for an important, hard-fought victory that moves them one point behind the leaders Liverpool.

They were dominant in the first half, when the impressive Phil Foden scored the only goal, but Bournemouth were much better after the break and almost grabbed an equaliser when Enes Unal’s late header bounced just wide.

City’s tactile celebrations betray their relief. ‘One-nils win the league’ and all that. This victory, their eighth in the last nine league games, sets them up perfectly for a pivotal month.

07:25 PM GMT

90+6 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City

De Bruyne is booked for kicking the ball away.

07:24 PM GMT

90+5 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City 1

Ouattara’s long throw is headed on and loops towards Solanke, whose mistimed overhead kick goes well wide. That should be it.

07:23 PM GMT

90+3 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City 1

Sinisterra’s low cross is cleared by Rodri, perfectly positioned at the near post.

07:22 PM GMT

90+1 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City 1

There will be six minutes of added time. That would have been some moment for Unal, who was on City’s books as a teenager. His header seemed to be on target until it kicked off the pitch like a leg break, although Ederson might have saved it had it been goalbound.

07:20 PM GMT

90 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City 1

So close from Unal! Semenyo crosses deep to the far post, where Unal pulls away from a defender and does superbly to generate enough power on his downward header. It bounces away from the diving Ederson and fractionally wide of the left-hand post.

07:17 PM GMT

87 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City 1

Bernardo Silva is booked for a brazen tactical foul on Semenyo.

Bournemouth bring on Enes Unal and Luis Sinisterra for Ryan Christie and Milos Kerkez.

07:14 PM GMT

84 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City 1

Ouattara cuts inside from the left, chops back outside Akanji on the edge of the area and drives a cross shot that goes a few yards wide. This is getting far too hairy for City’s comfort.

Rodri and Ruben Dias exchange views
Rodri and Ruben Dias exchange views - Clive Rose/Getty Images

07:13 PM GMT

84 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City 1

City substitution Kevin De Bruyne is on for Mateo Kovacic.

07:12 PM GMT

83 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City 1

Ouattara overhits a relatively straightforward cross/pass to Semenyo, who was unmarked in front of goal. It was a great chance - but replays suggest Ouattara was offside so it wouldn’t have counted anyway.

07:11 PM GMT

82 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City 1

Semenyo gets away down the right and slides a fast low cross that is cleared a little desperately at the near post. City, so comfortable in the first half, are having to work really hard now.

Doku almost makes life with more comfortable with a menacing run and shot that deflects behind for a corner. Alvarez’s goalbound inswinger is punched away by Neto.

07:08 PM GMT

80 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City 1

Bournemouth substitution Marcos Senesi is replaced by Romain Faivre, who is making his home debut.

07:07 PM GMT

78 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City 1

Smith stumbles over just outside the area after challenge from Doku. The referee gives nothing and is serenaded, not for the first time tonight. with “You’re not fit to referee.”

07:04 PM GMT

75 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City 1

Man City substitution Julian Alvarez comes on for Erling Haalnad.

07:04 PM GMT

74 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City 1

Fine save by Neto! Haaland plays a slick one-two with Foden, ignores a sliding challenge from Senesi and thrashes a close-range shot that is really well blocked by Neto.

07:00 PM GMT

71 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City 1

After good play from Foden, Kovacic’s shot from the edge of the area deflects behind for a corner. Foden swings it beyond the far post and Ake’s header is comfortably saved by Neto.

06:59 PM GMT

70 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City 1

The substitute Ouattara has a hopeful cross-shot blocked by Dias. City break and Senesi is booked for a rugby tackle on Haaland.

06:57 PM GMT

68 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City 1

Double substitution for Bournemouth Alex Scott and Dango Ouattara come on for Justin Kluivert and Marcus Tavernier.

06:57 PM GMT

67 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City 1

Good save by Ederson! Adam Smith wins a corner for Bournemouth, who are having close to an even share of the second half. Tavernier’s inswinger is met beyond the far post that by the head of Solanke, and Ederson - standing behind the line - punches the ball clear. Kerkez’s follow-up is blocked.

Ederson saves Dominic Solanke's header
Ederson saves Dominic Solanke's header - Clive Rose/Getty Images

06:54 PM GMT

65 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City 1

City are aiming to keep back-to-back clean sheets in the Premier League for the first time since the opening two games of the season. What a weird stat for a team who are usually so sound defensively.

06:52 PM GMT

63 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City 1

City substitution Jeremy Doku, who made four and scored one in the return fixture, replaces Matheus Nunes on the left wing.

06:49 PM GMT

59 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City 1

Solanke protects the ball on the left side of the area and plays it back to Tavernier on the edge. He sweeps a first-time shot well wide of the far post. That was another half-decent opportunity for Bournemouth, who are having their best spell of the game.

06:47 PM GMT

58 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City 1

Bournemouth are starting to win possession a bit more in the City half. City won’t feel safe while it’s only 1-0.

06:46 PM GMT

55 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City 1

Chance for Bournemouth! Semenyo, who looks Bournemouth’s main attacking threat, beats Ake on the right and cracks a low ball into the middle. It takes gets a slight touch off a City player in the six-yard box and falls to Tavernier, who mishits a shot back across goal that bounces up and is headed clear by Dias. It wasn’t on target anyway, but it was a pretty good chance.

06:42 PM GMT

53 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City 1

Foden gets to the byline and flashes a cutback across the face of goal. For once Haaland had held his position instead of moving into the six-yard box.

06:41 PM GMT

52 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City 1

Haaland gallops purposefully into the area, floors Zabarnyi with a shoulder charge and drills a shot that hits the falling Zabarnyi and goes behind for a corner.

Erling Haaland's shot is blocked by Illia Zabarnyi
Erling Haaland's shot is blocked by Illia Zabarnyi - David Cliff/AP

06:40 PM GMT

51 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City 1

A better spell for Bournemouth. Kluivert cuts across a shot from 25 yards that is well held by Ederson, moving to his right. It was moving awkwardly.

Justin Kluivert has a shot from 25 yards
Justin Kluivert has a shot from 25 yards - Clive Rose/Getty Images

06:38 PM GMT

49 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City 1

City have picked up where they left off, draining a little more of Bournemouth’s energy and hope with every pass. It must be uniquely demoralising to play against them.

06:34 PM GMT

46 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City 1

Back under way, with no changes on either side.

06:21 PM GMT

HT: Bournemouth 0 Man City 1

An excellent first half for City, who broke with recent tradition by scoring the opening goal away from home. Phil Foden got it after Erling Haaland’s shot was pushed away by Neto, and for most of the half Bournemouth struggled to spend any quality time with the ball. It was a typical City away performance, a kind of quiet hammering.

06:18 PM GMT

45+3 min: Bournemouth 0 Man City 1

The corner is headed away to Cook, whose first-time pinger is blocked. Bournemouth come again and Christie hits a crisp drive from 22 yards that is pushed away by Ederson, diving to his left. Good save.

06:17 PM GMT

45+2 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City 1

Semenyo gets the wrong side of Ake near the byline and then goes over. Bournemouth, who haven’t been happy with the referee, can’t believe a foul isn’t given.

Moments later Kerkez has a shot from the edge of the area that deflects behind for a corner.

06:16 PM GMT

45 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City 1

Three added minutes. Bournemouth really need a breather - they are looking frazzled after spending 45 minutes chasing the ball.

06:14 PM GMT

44 min: Bournemouth 0 Man City 1

Foden receives the ball on the edge of a crowded penalty area, twists smartly away from Cook but shoots straight at Neto with his right foot.

City are in total control of this game.

06:13 PM GMT

43 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City 1

Rodri buys a foul from Tavernier 25 yards from goal. City try something off the training ground and soon regret it.

Marcus Tavernier is penalised for a challenge on Rodri
Marcus Tavernier is penalised for a challenge on Rodri - Adam Davy/PA

06:11 PM GMT

41 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City 1

A rare Bournemouth attack allows City to counter. Bernardo Silva moves into the area, only his left foot, but instead of shooting he tries a backheel to Nunes. The ball spins away from him and is put behind for a corner.

06:08 PM GMT

39 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City 1

Stones runs onto a return pass from Silva and goes over just outside the area after a tangle of legs with Cook. The referee books Cook, which impresses precisely 0.00 per cent of the home support.

The boos turn to cheers when Foden curls the resulting free-kick high and wide.

06:05 PM GMT

35 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City 1

Solanke hurts his knee when chasing back to challenge Kovacic, which at the moment is the only way he can get involved in the game. Play resumes but he’s limping quite heavily.

06:03 PM GMT

32 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City 1

Bournemouth haven’t played badly at all but City are so good at keeping their opponent at arm’s length. Their shape is interesting today: 4-2-3-1, but with Nunes on the left and Foden as the No10. Even before the goal, he was the most eye-catching attacking player on the field.

Phil Foden celebrates his goal with Bernardo Silva
Phil Foden celebrates his goal with Bernardo Silva - Matthew Childs/Action Images via Reuters

05:57 PM GMT

27 min: Bournemouth 0 Man City 1

City are suddenly threatening to overwhelm Bournemouth. Rodri’s stinger from 20 yards is blocked by Christie, and Bernardo Silva teasesa the rebound just wide from the edge of the area.

05:55 PM GMT

GOAL! Bournemouth 0 Man City 1 (Foden)

24 min Phil Foden gets another important goal away from home. Haaland made a good run onto Kovacic’s chipped pass, rolled Senesi and cracked a shot across goal from a tight angle. Neto could only push it away to his left and Foden was first to the rebound.

It’s Foden’s 16th goal of the season, which equals his personal best.

05:53 PM GMT

23 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City

Semenyo cuts inside from the right and plays an angled pass towards Kluivert that is crucially cut out by the stretching Stones. Kluivert would otherwise have been through on goal.

05:53 PM GMT

22 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City

Apparently his name’s Pablo De La Torre, so I’ve no idea why his initials are PS.

As you may have discerned from this pointless digression, nothing is happening on the field. City are trying to pass Bournemouth to sleep, and they might take a viewers out as well.

05:51 PM GMT

19 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City

One of the Bournemouth backroom staff has been given a yellow card for excessive use of the mouth. I’m not sure who it is but the initials on his tracksuit are PS, and it sounds like he lived up to them by repeatedly going back for more.

05:48 PM GMT

17 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City

Bournemouth are trying to press City when they can, though they know they have to be pragmatic against a team who keep the ball so well. Foden looks City’s biggest threat at the moment; he breaks into space on the left and hooks a speculative cross that is behind Haaland.

05:45 PM GMT

14 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City

Smith is penalised for a very strong man-and-ball tackle on Nunes. He doesn’t think it was a foul but he looked out of control and his leading foot - the one that didn’t take the ball - caught Nunes on the ankle.

05:41 PM GMT

10 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City 0

Good save by Ederson! At the other end Kerkez hits a wobbling, dipping drive 25 yards that is pushed over acrobatically by Ederson. It was straight enough to make it a relatively comfortable save for Ederson, though it was moving like a beach ball.

05:40 PM GMT

9 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City 0

Haaland misses a good chance! Bernardo Silva drops deep to receive the ball from Ederson and drives a long, straight pass towards Foden. He watches it over his shoulder, just past the halfway line, and cushions a delicious volleyed pass that puts Haaland through on goal. He moves to the edge of the D and curls wide with his right foot.

Haaland probably should have scored. It would have been one of the best assists of the season from Foden, whose touch was quite exquisite.

Erling Haaland shoots wide from the edge of the area
Erling Haaland shoots wide from the edge of the area - Matthew Childs/Action Images via Reuters

05:36 PM GMT

6 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City 0

City have gone behind in nine of their last 10 away games, which is an absurd stat. Matheus Nunes tries to do something about it with an elegant run into the area from the left, but he runs out of room and is well challenged by Smith.

05:35 PM GMT

5 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City 0

A quiet start, loads of City possession. Fast starts aren’t really a City thing any more; they are very happy to wear the opposition down and win the game late on.

Dominic Solanke tries to win the ball off Ruben Dias
Dominic Solanke tries to win the ball off Ruben Dias - Peter Nicholls/Reuters

05:31 PM GMT

2 mins: Bournemouth 0 Man City 0

City have started with Akanji at right-back and John Stones as the centre-back-cum-midfielder.

05:30 PM GMT

1 min: Bournemouth 0 Man City 0

Bournemouth get the match under way, kicking from right to left as we watch.

05:26 PM GMT

Tight at the top

If Manchester City and Arsenal (who play Newcastle at 8pm) win tonight, the top three will be separated by two points with 12 games remaining. Now that would be a title race.

  • Liverpool P26 Pts60

  • Man City P25 Pts56

  • Arsenal P25 Pts 55

05:19 PM GMT

Sky takes a look at City's 'vulnerability'

04:39 PM GMT

Your teams in the trad format

AFC Bournemouth Neto; Smith, Zabarnyi, Senesi, Kerkez; Christie, Cook, Semenyo; Kluivert, Tavernier; Solanke. 
Substitutes Travers, Mepham, Faivre, Ouattara, Scott, Sinisterra, Andrei Radu, Unal, Kinsey-Wellings. 

Man City Ederson; Stones, Dias, Ake; Rodri, Akanji; Bernardo Silva, Matheus Luiz, Kovacic, Foden; Haaland. 
Substitutes  Ortega, Walker, Grealish, Doku, De Bruyne, Alvarez, Gomez, Bobb, Lewis. 

Referee Jarred Gillett (Australia)

04:34 PM GMT

City make three changes, still no De Bruyne in starting XI

Out go Walker, Alvarez and Bobb – for Ake, Nunes and Kovacic:

04:32 PM GMT

Bournemouth make one change

Kerkez replaces Kelly.

04:29 PM GMT

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04:28 PM GMT

Preview: Masters of marathon pacing

Hello and welcome to Telegraph Sport’s live, minute-by-minute coverage of Bournemouth v Manchester City. Unlike most of the young folks travelling to Bournemouth on a Saturday evening, Pep Guardiola would love a nice, quiet night by the coast. Since City beat Bournemouth 6-1 in the return fixture, they have played 14 Premier League games – and only two could be described as comfortable victories. In the rest City either a) didn’t win or b) had to come from behind and/or wait until the last 20 minutes to take the lead.

With Liverpool defying their injury list and Arsenal hitting spectacular form, City can’t afford to drop any points tonight. Bournemouth away is rarely easy, but it gets even tougher after this. City’s next five league games are Man Utd (H), Liverpool (A), Brighton (A), Arsenal (H) and Aston Villa (H).

City are masters of pacing the Premier League marathon, which is why they are quietly on the cusp of more history. No team has ever been English champions four seasons in a row, but City could achieve that – and win a sixth title in seven years. In some ways their era of dominance started at Bournemouth. On 26 August 2017, in the third game of the season, Raheem Sterling scored a 97th-minute winner and City never looked back. They scored 24 goals in the next five league games, didn’t even draw again until New Year’s Eve and finished the second with a record 100 points. The lost season of 2019-20 aside, they have dominated English football ever since.

In the week Sir Jim Ratcliffe said the newly competent Manchester United want to knock City off their perch. They’ll have to join the queue. “All the teams want it,” said Guardiola yesterday. “What I want is Man City, my team, being there. The rest, I don’t care.”

Kick off is at 5.30pm, and we’ll have team news shortly.

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