Manchester City returned to the top of the Premier League table thanks to a 1-0 win over Bournemouth.
Riyad Mahrez scored the only goal of a tight game 10 minutes into the second half, sending City two points clear of title rivals Liverpool – who face Everton on Sunday.
But who were the winners and losers from the match?
Winner: Riyad Mahrez
After a tough first half, City needed someone to find a way through Bournemouth’s back line. Sergio Aguero was being well kept-out by Nathan Ake, while Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva had a hard time breaching Bournemouth’s tight back nine at times.
Riyad Mahrez celebrates after scoring his first Premier League goal of 2019. pic.twitter.com/agnUf0WQaM
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) March 2, 2019
City fans would have had their heads in their hands in seeing Kevin De Bruyne going off injured but it forced Pep Guardiola’s hand early and eventually brought the opening goal.
Riyad Mahrez was the man to come on, going to his right-wing position with Bernardo Silva dropping back into midfield to cover De Bruyne as he had so well earlier in the season.
On with a point to prove, given his chance ahead of Leroy Sane, Mahrez took control of the wide play looking to pile pressure on Bournemouth’s full-backs and finding space in the box to receive David Silva’s pass, beating Boruc at his near post.
Mahrez has not had the best first season at City, but his latest goal may just be vital in the title race.
Loser: Kevin De Bruyne
Kevin De Bruyne was brilliantly instrumental last season in Manchester City’s record-breaking Premier League title win, recording 16 assists. But this year he has not had the same effect on his team-mates on the pitch, though that is not his fault.
Returning late following a World Cup third-place finish with Belgium, the midfielder managed just 30 minutes in Man City’s first game of the season before a serious knee injury in training ruled him out for two months.
He returned in mid-October but managed just three more games across all competitions before another knee injury saw him miss nine matches. But things had been looking up as the Belgian had been a steady part of City’s team since mid-December, helping them win the Carabao Cup last weekend.
In the build-up to Saturday’s game against Bournemouth, the start of a busy schedule for City, De Bruyne was talking up his side’s chances of winning the quadruple. But the Belgian’s part in that run has been thrown into doubt with another injury setback.
It was an innocuous injury, with De Bruyne going down feeling his leg after giving a pass, before indicating it was a hamstring injury as opposed to a reoccurrence of his knee problems.
But, knee or hamstring, the midfielder’s stop-start season has been halted once more.
Winner: Nathan Ake
The key reason City took so long to find the breakthrough on Saturday was down to the organisation and performances of the Bournemouth defence and, in particular, Nathan Ake.
The Dutchman was unfortunate to be on the losing side, putting in a brilliant showing at the heart of Eddie Howe’s back line.
Prior to the game, Ake had been speaking about his spell at Chelsea, and particularly his time under Jose Mourinho who failed to utilise the young prospect. The Dutchman admitted this had left him “broken”.
But he looked nothing of the sort on Saturday, keeping Sergio Aguero quiet and showing experience vastly beyond his years – though unsurprisingly for those who have been watching him closely.
Whenever City got past Bournemouth’s wing-backs, Ake was there. Whenever a cross came into the box, Ake was there. When Aguero’s second-half chip hit the bar with Mahrez luring, Ake was there.
Ake made an impressive seven clearances in the match as well as winning both of his attempted tackles, sitting in well alongside Jack Simpson who was also impressive.
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Loser: John Stones
As if losing De Bruyne wasn’t enough, Pep Guardiola had to add John Stones to his growing injury list just after half-time.
The Englishman had marshalled the defence fairly well in the first half, though had very little to do, but appeared to have picked up a minor knock going into half-time. Stones made it out for the second half but lasted just two minutes before having to be replaced by Vincent Kompany.
Stones had missed City’s past two matches through a slight thigh injury and it appeared to be a reoccurrence of the same injury on Saturday, with the centre-back seen with an ice pack on the area after his substitution.
While some will point at Guardiola for potential rushing Stones back, the Spaniard does not have much choice, with City’s injury list filled with key players.
With De Bruyne and Stones added, Guardiola has at least seven players out including Benjamin Mendy, Aymeric Laporte, Fernandinho, Claudio Bravo and Fabian Delph.
Winner: David Silva
At 33 years old, some players may be looking to wind down, in search of a potential big-wage move in a country like China, setting themselves up for the long future of retirement.
David Silva has provided at least five assists in each of his nine Premier League seasons:
Consistent creation. 💫 https://t.co/qLlgbly11p
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 2, 2019
But not David Silva.
The Spanish magician is still going so strong in the Premier League and is proving vital for Man City’s quest to retain the title.
At a time where City appeared to be struggling to create space in front of goal, Silva found Riyad Mahrez 10 minutes into the second half, to help Pep Guardiola’s side return to the top of the table.
It was Silva’s fifth assist of the season, ensuring he has now provided at least five in each of his nine Premier League campaigns – just one of the many strings on his bow.
It also brought up 80 in total for the Spaniard, moving him joint-eighth in the Premier League, level with another great David, Beckham.
For the neutral’s following Saturday’s scores, Riyad Mahrez’s goal would have been a huge relief as the Premier League title race keeps its intensity.
Bournemouth 0-1 Man City FT:
Passes completed: 100-733
Pure dominance from the away side. 😳 https://t.co/My4t7aFvs3
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 2, 2019
City are now top of the table, two points clear of Liverpool, who have the small task of a Merseyside Derby on Sunday.
As if the pressure from Liverpool’s fanbase to get one over on their neighbours wasn’t enough, the Reds must now win to keep control of their title hopes.
Many will expect them to get all three points at Anfield, but a draw could be equally as likely. Since Everton’s last win in the Merseyside Derby in 2010, Liverpool have won nine times – but there have also been nine draws.
A draw is no longer enough for a team looking to win the league for the first time since 1990 against the defending champions.