Call it what you like; “a game of two halves”, “a game-changing substitution” or “a resolute performance”. When push came to shove, Manchester City went to AFC Bournemouth and got the vital three points they so needed to stay in contention for the Premier League title.
With a first half that seemed to be devolving into a CFA crossing practice session, it was a crushing further injury to Kevin De Bruyne that provided the game with the jolt it needed to spark the second half into life, coming in the form of City scapegoat Riyad Mahrez. With the Algerian taking his chance with clinical directness, the Blues had the lead they needed and the rest was history.
Without further ado, here’s how I rated the Blues as they secured another vital win:
Ederson – 7
It might seem odd to rate Eddy this high given how much the game took place in Bournemouth’s half, but I need to give the Brazilian his due here. Time and time again, he’ll be halfway to putting the kettle on only to spring into action with such nonchalance you’d think he was offended to be involved. Ruthlessly dealt with anything that came his way whilst looking down his nose.
Kyle Walker – 4
Just when you think Walker can go a run of games without embarrassing himself, he goes and makes a twat of himself. Until the last ten minutes, he’d been having a fairly standard game, but within the space of about 5 minutes he’d forgotten to keep a ball in possession, made a needlessly dangerous tackle and practically gifted the ball to Bournemouth on the edge of the area. You have to wonder how many times a season Danilo fires up his Twitter burner account.
John Stones – 6
Did well to not be the most notable City injury but it was a real shame to see John not make it through the whole game (and not just due to a lack of centre backs). Before making way for Kompany just the other side of half time, Stones had given a decent account of himself. Whilst his range of passing wasn’t on full display, his presence on the field had given City an additional string to their bow. Let’s hope his substitution was a mere precaution.
Nicolas Otamendi – 6
As is the case with Otamendi, it’s mostly a good game when there is little to say about his performance. Thankfully, it was one of those days when the General marshalled his troops rather than died on his sword. A highlight has to be the “what-could-have-been” of his first-half bicycle kick.
Oleksandr Zinchenko – 8
Another Premier League game, another victory for a player that is impressing me more and more with every match. After so long without a genuine option at left-back, it feels bewildering to see Zinchenko consistently in the starting but he is certainly there on merit. Each fixture seems to highlight a different element to the Ukranian’s newfound defensive skillset, with today seeing him direct every header he won with pinpoint accruacy and compusure.
Ilkay Gündogan – 6
The nature of the game meant that Gündogan didn’t have to make that many sliding challenges or last-ditch fouls, but the German held his position well and kept the ball moving. Though Fernandinho is no slouch, Gündo often chooses to attempt more risque passes than his Brazilian counterpart, seeing him operate more as a deep playmaker than a cynical ball winner. He tried a few of those plays today but only a few came off. Better luck next time out.
Kevin De Bruyne – 6
Let’s address the elephant in the room: I will sacrifice whatever I need to if it means Kevin can stay fit in the long-term. My heart genuinely dropped in tandem with the Belgian’s arse to grass as he sat down in disgruntlement with his hamstring. What makes it all the more painful was that he seemed to be displaying telltale signs of his quality before his substitution. Be better soon, Kev (please).
David Silva – 7
My personal issues aside with Guardiola’s team selection, it was a strange performance from David on the south coast, with the first half almost seeming like a warm-up as he tried a few neat passes to little avail. Come the second half, though, and El Mago seemed more like his old self, finding those small spaces and working his magic to assist the decisive goal. Let’s hope he keeps on that way.
Bernardo Silva – 8
It’s a conspiracy. Bernardo Silva cannot possibly achieve less than a 7 on a match day. The Portuguese Duracell Bunny charges left, right and centre like his life depends on it, not allowing his man to slack off for a second for fear of being punished. Particularly when thinking in contrast to Wednesday night, Bernardo’s continued directness and passion is an invaluable asset when City need a kick up the backside. My favourite player on the right hand side since Zabaleta.
Raheem Sterling – 7
Just like I mentioned with Bernardo, Raheem proved he is a guaranteed wing option in providing pace and drive from the first whistle on Saturday afternoon. The only thing lacking today was a bit of composure; there were a handful of chances that I thought he could’ve handled better and he still needs to focus when it comes to delivering that all-important finishing.
Sergio Agüero – 6
There were some amazing stats being passed around about Sergio’s home form after he scored the winning pen against West Ham on Wednesday night. If only the same could be said for his games away from home! Try as he might to fashion a goal (even somehow looping a cross onto the crossbar), he just couldn’t find the net today. Onto Watford at home it is.
Riyad Mahrez – 8 (Man of the Match)
Well, that’s one way to shut me up. After putting himself in the firing line with a stuttering display on Wednesday, Mahrez put his doubters to rest as he brushed himself down from an impromptu substitution and defiantly scored the winner today. Sure, other players might have impressed with more complete performances, but I have to give him the Man of the Match award for bringing the points back to the Etihad. He can be one of our most important players if things fall into place.
Vincent Kompany – 7
No less than 24 hours after Pep Guardiola had directly praised him for his continued professionalism and outstanding ability to perform without having consistent matches, Vinnie did it all over again. We thought he would be fading quietly into a backroom role, but our captain is finding new ways to make us love him. Patrolled the backline like he’d been playing all season. What a legend.
Gabriel Jesus – N/A
No time to mark.
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