Written by Dan Davis (@dan_davis20)
AFC Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe rued the manner in which Manchester City scored their decisive goal in the champions’ narrow victory at Vitality Stadium.
The title-chasing visitors dominated the clash, recording 82% possession at the full-time whistle, but were often left frustrated after defensive heroics from the Cherries’ five-man backline.
However, substitute Riyad Mahrez dealt the fatal blow for City on 55 minutes, steering home at the near post after being teed up by David Silva.
But in the build-up to the strike, a wicked deflection off Charlie Daniels fell kindly for the Spaniard inside the penalty area.
When questioned about Mahrez’s effort, Howe said: “The only disappointment for me was their goal, which is probably the ugliest goal they’ll score this season. That’s cost us the game.”
City’s dominance on the ball, coupled with the Cherries’ failure to muster a single shot on goal, led to Howe later admitting the visitors’ superiority.
He said: “Their technical level was so high. We were waiting for mistakes, and for them to force passes and get frustrated and they didn’t. They kept doing the right thing, the simple thing, and it meant our chances to attack in the game were really limited.
“You think back to how many technical mistakes they made, and there were very few to think of and it’s that control that made it very difficult for us to get a foothold in the game in any way. Even when we tried to change things for the last 20 minutes and apply pressure, it never really happened.”
But despite the defeat, the Cherries delivered a battling showing with the centre-half trio of Nathan Ake, Chris Mepham and Jack Simpson often proving resolute against City’s attacking arsenal.
The Bournemouth boss admitted he was pleased with his side’s defence, just three days after a 5-1 humiliation at Arsenal.
“We’re pleased overall with how we defended,” said Howe.
“I think we had to answer a few questions from Wednesday, where we pride ourselves on being organised, giving everything in every match and not allowing those standards to drop. But on Wednesday it was difficult.
“Today I think we did that, and we gave everything to the game. The young back three performed really well considering their ages and lack of experience. I thought they produced some really good performances individually, and collectively it meant we were in the game.”
The host’s approach to the clash was notably more defensively-orientated against City, but Howe praised his side’s attempts at executing the tactic:
“It’s a difficult one because we usually go into the game with a totally different mindset – very front-foot, wanting the ball, wanting to take the game to the opposition. If we did that today, it would have left ourselves too open with their quality.
“So we did it a different way, and I’m pleased with the effort. Not necessarily everything about the performance, but the effort was there, and the determination to do everything to get the result was there. And I think that’s all we can ask.”