by Dan Davis (@dan_davis20)
AFC Bournemouth dropped into the Premier League relegation zone after Sergio Aguero’s brace helped Manchester City romp to a 4-0 victory at the Etihad.
The runaway leaders picked up their 17th successive league win with ease against the Cherries, and now have a 14 point gap over city rivals Manchester United before the late kick off. Newcastle United’s win at West Ham condemned Bournemouth to 18th place, before a crucial run of fixtures against The Hammers and newly improved Everton.
Sergio Aguero slotted home two after well-worked moves from a dominant City outfit, before Raheem Sterling and Danilo rounded off a miserable, wet afternoon in Manchester for the Cherries.
Eddie Howe rotated his side in the midst of a hectic run of fixtures over the holiday period, with six changes made for the trip to the Etihad. Steve Cook, youngster Jack Simpson, Ryan Fraser, Dan Gosling, Callum Wilson and Junior Stanislas all came into the starting line-up, after injury setbacks for Charlie Daniels and Josh King in the resounding 4-0 home defeat to Liverpool.
The Cherries battled well in the early stages, as Manchester City patiently looked to find a way through.
After an opening ten minutes of pressure from the home side, referee Mike Jones inadvertently blocked a clearance from David Silva which presented an opening for Junior Stanislas, who could only shoot wide. As fired his effort towards goal, the Bournemouth winger looked to pick up an injury and had to be replaced by Marc Pugh, adding to an already lengthy list of absentees for Howe.
Manchester City’s patience almost paid off after 20 minutes. Nicolas Otamendi chipped a delightful ball over the Bournemouth defence which Aguero controlled beautifully, before firing narrowly over Asmir Begovic’s crossbar.
The Citizens’ continued to ramp up the pressure when Kevin de Bruyne sprayed a pin-point cross-field pass to Leroy Sane who won a corner. From the set-piece, Fernandinho headed over the bar.
But the Brazilian would be integral minutes later, as City deservedly took the lead. Bournemouth looked to play out from the back, but Pep Guardiola’s team quickly won back possession before Fernandinho chipped a ball over the top for Aguero to nod home at the back post.
Eddie Howe’s side were hounded when on the ball by an energetic City team, and struggled to break out of their own half at times.
However just five minutes before the interval, Bournemouth were nearly handed an early holiday gift from City goalkeeper Ederson. The Brazilian rushed out to smother Ryan Fraser’s ball to Jordon Ibe, before Fabian Delph slid in well to prevent the Cherries from converting into an empty net.
Moments after the interval, City almost scored a second after pouncing on indecision in the Bournemouth back line. Sterling burst into the penalty area, and the Cherries hesitated to clear their lines. David Silva picked up the ball and looked set to find the back of the net, but Steve Cook timed his interception to perfection.
Guardiola’s team continued their dominance, and scored their second in the 53rd minute. David Silva picked out Aguero outside the box, and the Argentine deftly lobbed over the Bournemouth defence for Sterling to smash home low past Begovic.
In the 72nd minute Eddie Howe looked to roll the dice as he brought on Benik Afobe for Wilson, and Lys Mousset replaced Jack Simpson who impressed on his Premier League debut. The change in formation for the south coast side looked to open the game up, and City grabbed their third with ease.
Bernardo Silva whipped in a cross from the right side, and Aguero was able to ghost between Cook and Smith and nod home from close range. The finish was City’s 100th goal in this calendar year, making them the first Premier League team to achieve this total.
The Argentine spurned an opportunity to grab his hat-trick minutes later, when he looked to cut inside and get a shot away before Cook tackled well.
But Bournemouth’s defence was soon to be broken down again for the fourth time. Sterling raced towards the penalty area, and threaded through Danilo who slotted home to round off an emphatic performance.
The referee blew for full-time to bring an end to another poor afternoon of Premier League football for Bournemouth. Two consecutive 4-0 losses, albeit to two of the top teams in England’s top flight, have pushed the Cherries into the relegation zone before two crucial home fixtures against West Ham and Everton. Manchester City, meanwhile, look set to lift the Premier League trophy again at the end of the season.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
Manchester City: Ederson, Walker, Kompany, Otamendi, Delph, de Bruyne, Fernandinho, D. Silva, Sterling, Aguero, Sane
Subs: Bravo, Danilo, Gundogan, Mangala, B. Silva, Jesus, Toure
Bournemouth: Begovic, Smith, S. Cook, Ake, Simpson, Fraser, Gosling, Surman, Ibe, Stanislas, Wilson
Subs: Boruc, Pugh, Afobe, L. Cook, Hyndman, Mahoney, Mousset
Referee: Mike Jones