Guardiola congratulated the academy on its production line. “We have the process – Phil and Eric [García] Tommy [Doyle] or Liam, Cole Palmer [an unused substitute]: exceptional actors. Congratulations to the academy for these players and all the coaches out there. ”
City lined up in an unknown 4-2-3-1 formation that had Delap at the forefront and Rodri and Doyle as their base midfield. The opening was created by the sleek Foden with a simple but incisive ball that took off Bournemouth’s rearguard and blew Delap over it, his left-footed finish tucked into the upper right corner.
Guardiola was visibly delighted and City were sailing, with Doyle particularly having fun at this point, exemplified by a pristine turn from Cruyff. Yet in a flash, Bournemouth was level via a sweeping streak that went left to right as David Brooks fed Dan Gosling. He starred in Sam Surridge and his finish, low on Steffen’s right, was as adamant as Delap’s. Here is a test for the less graying of the home team, the lead having lasted four minutes.
When Doyle hit a square ball out of play with Foden it was easy to find it, it indicated how quickly fortunes had turned. But City gradually rallied. A Kyle Walker ball played at the far post was measured precisely for Delap to hit home, but his connection was bad. Ten minutes before the interval, the Bernabé had to be replaced, the Spaniard took off on a stretcher after apparently suffering a knee injury, with the arrival of Benjamin Mendy.
Walker – twice – should have created an opening from the right and an instant shot from Rodri kept visiting goalkeeper Mark Travers alert but at halftime the game was in balance. Living in potential peril, Guardiola saw Kevin De Bruyne and Nathan Aké warm up along the sideline early in the second half.
City pinned Bournemouth back, but when Foden slid the ball to the left, Mendy’s cross deformed his boot in the seats behind Travers’ goal. This defense was as fragile as the first-choice one: a long ball was hit and Surridge was again free to gallop to Steffen, Taylor Harwood-Bellis and García recovering to smother the center forward and danger. Guardiola’s use of two starting players at Doyle and Rodri instead of the usual meant City could be too static.
It was part of what prompted the manager to withdraw the latter for De Bruyne on time, with his side now only having Doyle as a deep midfielder. The Belgian’s first contribution was a shoulder dive which resulted in a foul, but nothing came from the corner following De Bruyne’s free kick.
Guardiola’s next move was to replace Doyle with Raheem Sterling, so the manager went from two players in front of his defense to none. After another free kick from De Bruyne came to nothing and Torres floated into a center Bournemouth dealt with easily, City – finally – found penetration, and the winner. Mahrez and Foden combined, the former hitting the ball over Travers’ left post before the latter made it home. Guardiola punched the air and by the end of City’s winning run there were 16 ties. Jason Tindall remained disappointed but proud. “They have done each other justice,” said the Bournemouth manager.