Manchester City kept the pressure on Premier League leaders Liverpool after a slender 1-0 away win over AFC Bournemouth yesterday but were made to work hard for their victory on the South Coast. Second-half substitute Riyad Mahrez broke the deadlock with a low drilled effort which beat Artur Boruc at his near post, in another forgettable game from Pep Guardiola's perspective.
He lost both John Stones and Kevin de Bruyne through injury early after the restart. Although Mahrez proved matchwinner while Vincent Kompany slotted in well, he'll be sweating over their fitness after Fernandinho suffered a thigh problem during their Carabao Cup win vs. Chelsea last Sunday.
The result is Bournemouth's sixth defeat in ten matches across all competitions to start 2019 and after their 5-1 thumping by Arsenal in midweek, a respectable loss - but one that will have been compounded by their inability to register a shot on target at home in this one.
With all of that in mind, here's a look at five talking points from this affair as City were made to earn a vital away victory:
#5 Howe's men disappoint again in reserved display
After a 5-1 thumping by Arsenal at the Emirates in midweek, optimistic Bournemouth fans would have seen their upcoming home fixture against defending champions Manchester City and braced themselves for impact.
After all, Pep Guardiola's men had netted a league-high 75 goals in 28 matches before this fixture. Even still though, it was no excuse for the type of rearguard defensive display that was on show and it quickly became apparent the hosts were playing for a draw.
It's all well and good when this tactic proves successful, or you're able to snatch all three points after a well-executed counter-attack strike. What happens if you concede though? The gameplan goes completely out of the window, just like it did after Mahrez's opener on 55 minutes.
The celebration said it all: relief. Relieved they didn't have to keep probing in the same manner anymore to create chances, particularly as Bournemouth defended well in numbers and often had Nathan Ake's interventions to thank they weren't behind before then. You couldn't say it wasn't coming either, with Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling both coming close, while Eddie Howe's attacking alterations were too late and proved futile.
It's the type of negative football style that you don't tend to associate with Bournemouth and even though they were playing against a side of City's quality, this was a sign of too much respect. Even if they had attacked more as a unit, this would've asked questions of the visitors' backline - just like Schalke did in their Champions League clash a fortnight ago. Disappointing.