Written by Akshay Kulkarni (@ImpatientPedant)
Eddie Howe lauded his team’s efforts after his Bournemouth side fell to a 1-0 loss against Manchester City.
The champions were made to work hard by a relatively resolute Cherries defense, normally so porous against big sides.
But they eventually scored the winner after a series of deflections, Riyad Mahrez scoring in the 54th minute.
Though City could have had more, the Cherries boss was happy to see a team effort from his side, especially after a 5-1 thrashing by Arsenal in midweek.
Howe said: “We’re pleased overall with how we defended. I think we had to answer a few questions from Wednesday, where we prided 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.”
Particular praise was reserved for Bournemouth’s central defensive trio of Chris Mepham, Nathan Ake, and Jack Simpson.
On the defense, Howe said: “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.
Howe then took on a rueful tone at not getting more out of the match. “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.”
The one chance which cost Bournemouth a share of the points was also saw Howe rueful. “If we hadn’t conceded, you don’t know what would have happened and whether they would have been frustrated the longer it went on.
“Would there have been chances for us? Your defensive game against them has to be very good, because one slip, one mistake, one momentary lapse can cost you. That’s where I think we did really well, and Artur [Boruc] wasn’t seriously troubled until we went one nil down.”
The winner eventually went through Boruc’s grasp at the Pole’s near post. But Howe refused to blame his keeper. “I’m never going to sit here and say that [blame Boruc for the goal]. I think we have to share the blame. I don’t think we should have gotten to that point in the first place. It was one of the few times where we weren’t as aggressive in our defending.”
“It wasn’t a beautiful goal. With Manchester City you usually associate a different way of scoring. That will frustrate us because in that moment we were very much in the match.”
Howe also had a lot of praise for the opposition. “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. We’ve played them before when they’ve blown us away, and some of the goals they’ve scored have been very very good. But today in a different, unspectacular way, they kept making the right decision at the right time and I think that deserves a lot of credit.”
Howe then talked about how he had to tweak his style of play against the Citizens, and how it almost paid off. “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 in 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.”
Pep hails performance as ‘one of the best’
Opposite number Pep Guardiola was elated with his side’s gritty performance. The result means City occupy top spot in the league, at least until Liverpool kick off against Everton tomorrow.
Guardiola said, praising the Cherries: “We made an incredible performance today, one of the best performances we’ve ever played. Because we attacked 11 players in the box, and didn’t concede one shot on target. This shows how committed they are. Set pieces, throw ins, free kicks, corners, second balls. How they run backwards, every time we lost the ball there were three or four guys going there to pick up and recover the ball and play.
“So it’s not easy, they are incredibly well organised 11 players in the box, really no spaces. We still found them. [sic]”
The Spaniard then talked about the title race, which promises to go down to the wire.
Guardiola said: “We created a lot of chances and that’s why, apart from winning the game…to be there close to Liverpool, to try to win the PL [is important].
“I don’t know what’s going to happen in the end of the season, but these players deserve all my admiration, all my respect.”
Both managers were positive for different reasons. As the tail end of the season starts coming into view, both teams will look to end strongly.