EPL

Phil Foden effort enough as Man City close gap on Liverpool with Bournemouth win

By Sports Desk February 24, 2024

Phil Foden’s 16th goal of the season helped Manchester City close the gap on Premier League leaders Liverpool to one point with an unconvincing 1-0 win at Bournemouth.

Pep Guardiola’s side had to contend with local fireworks, a misfiring Erling Haaland and a second-half onslaught from the hosts before they left the south coast with a 15th victory from their last 17 matches.

This latest triumph was thanks to Foden’s 24th-minute tap-in, but it was the Cherries who did most of the running from there afterwards and were unlucky to lose with Marcus Tavernier squandering two fine chances.

Nevertheless, this win for the champions keeps them firmly in the hunt for another title ahead of a bumper month of March with league clashes to come with Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal.

City had edged past Brentford on Tuesday night thanks to a goal from Haaland, but his shooting boots deserted him after nine minutes at Vitality Stadium.

Sent through after Foden had flicked on Bernardo Silva’s lofted pass, current Premier League top goalscorer Haaland curled the ball wide from 20 yards to spark big cheers from the home faithful.

The Bournemouth fans were almost on their feet celebrating 60 seconds later when Andoni Iraola watched his team create an opening for left-back Milos Kerkez, who tested Ederson with a dipping effort.

Chances remained at a premium with the main first-half flashpoint Adam Smith’s forceful tackle on Matheus Nunes until Foden continued his outstanding month with a 24th-minute opener.

It was more akin to route one than excellent football with Kovacic able to chip the ball into the path of Haaland, who brilliantly rolled Marcos Senesi before Neto saved his effort but Foden stroked home from close range for his sixth goal involvement of February.

Guardiola was on his haunches moments later when Silva failed to play through Haaland as City started to get into their stride with a Rodri effort also bravely blocked by Ryan Christie.

Bournemouth had spent most of the first half allowing their frustration with referee Jarred Gillett to get the better of them, but eventually posed City problems with Ederson called upon to parry Christie’s low effort in stoppage-time.

Whether Iraola’s team could keep it up was another question, but they fashioned a decent opening which was wasted by Kerkez early into the second period.

Justin Kluivert tried his luck soon after and, while Ederson saved his 25-yard strike – not for the first time – the City goalkeeper looked unconvincing.

The champions nearly highlighted their overwhelming power minutes later when Haaland bundled his way into the area, but Illia Zabarnyi got back well to block with his backside.

It failed to halt Bournemouth’s momentum and they should have levelled in the 55th minute.

Antoine Semenyo again got the better of Nathan Ake and his cross found Marcus Tavernier, but the Cherries attacker fired his effort into the ground and Ruben Dias headed the wayward shot clear for good measure.

Bournemouth were in the ascendancy now and another guilt-edged chance was squandered when in-form Dominic Solanke twisted away from Dias and set up Taverner, who dragged his 14-yard shot wide.

Guardiola had seen enough and Jeremy Doku was the first to get the call from a star-studded bench but it did not have the desired effect.

The latest chance for the hosts came and went with 67 minutes played when Taverner’s inswinging corner found Solanke, but his header was clawed away on the goaline by Ederson and Kerkez’s follow-up shot was blocked by Rodri.

Fireworks were let off close by to the stadium moments later before Haaland was substituted by an increasingly-agitated Guardiola, with 15 minutes left straight after Neto had denied the Norway international from close range.

Iraola’s team carried on taking the fight to the visitors and after Dango Ouattara arrowed an effort wide, the final opportunity of the night went to Bournemouth’s January recruit Enes Unal, but he headed Semenyo’s cross off target to ensure City claimed the points.

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  • VAR is a Luton fan – Forest hit out at PGMOL after ‘poor decisions’ at Everton VAR is a Luton fan – Forest hit out at PGMOL after ‘poor decisions’ at Everton

    Nottingham Forest have accused VAR Stuart Attwell of being a Luton fan after feeling they were on the wrong end of “three extremely poor decisions” during Sunday’s 2-0 Premier League defeat at Everton.

    Forest posted on X, formerly Twitter, soon after full-time that they were considering their options, having “warned the PGMOL that the VAR is a Luton fan before the game but they didn’t change him”, adding that their patience had now been “tested multiple times” this season.

    The relegation-threatened midlands club were furious not to be awarded spot-kicks by Anthony Taylor for challenges on Giovanni Reyna and Callum Hudson-Odoi by Ashley Young, who in the meantime had looked fortunate to escape a handball decision, with Attwell backing the referee.

    Forest posted: “Three extremely poor decisions – three penalties not given – which we simply cannot accept.

    “We warned the PGMOL that the VAR is a Luton fan before the game, but they didn’t change him. Our patience has been tested multiple times.

    “NFFC will now consider its options.”

    All three incidents were waved away by referee Taylor, with VAR Attwell opting not to reverse any decision, suggesting with the handball that Young’s arm had been deemed to be in a natural position when it was hit by Hudson-Odoi’s shot.

    Forest head coach Nuno Espirito Santo backed the club’s statement in the main but played down the importance of Attwell’s allegiances.

    Asked whether he agreed with his club’s stance, he said: “Yes I share (the view) because I saw the images. You see it so clearly, you don’t understand why the decision was against us.

    “I honestly think the situation with Gio Reyna in the first half was a clear one and the handball, we can ask because if not, the ball goes to (Chris) Wood and there is an incident with Callum and Ashley Young.

    “I share the feeling of the club because it is not only this game, it has been a while for poor decisions against us. It is not an excuse but we are not comfortable with the referees.”

    Nuno stopped short of repeating the club’s suggestion Attwell’s appointment as VAR raised issues of impartiality, instead choosing to question the official’s inability to spot what he thought were three viable spot-kicks.

    “I am aware of the complaint that the club was not comfortable with the VAR but the PGMOL (Professional Game Match Officials Limited) decided another way,” he said.

    “It is not important if he is a fan of another club or not. The VAR is sitting down in a chair, they have time to assess the images.

    “I would just like to understand the why – why we have always been on the end of bad decisions.

    “It is a feeling of disappointment that we are always being punished and it is difficult to control the players with this feeling because they felt they worked hard and not got what they deserved.”

    Asked whether he thought it was appropriate for the club to complain about the appointment of officials before a match, the Forest boss said: “I prefer not to answer if it is appropriate.

    “It’s a feeling and trying to avoid what happened today and not raise any more suspicions or thoughts that no-one wants. It is about preventing.”

    It is not the first time Forest have been incensed with refereeing decisions, and as a result they appointed former official Mark Clattenburg as a consultant analyst to fight their corner.

    The PA news agency understands the Football Association is aware of the post and is investigating, and has contacted the PGMOL for comment.

    Amid the furore, Everton moved five points clear of the relegation zone after goals in either half for Idrissa Gueye and Dwight McNeil.

    The only downside to the day for the hosts was striker Beto being carried off after being knocked unconscious in a clash of heads.

    “He definitely came around and could understand what is going on, a good early sign,” Toffees boss Sean Dyche said.

    “It was fantastic how early the medical team came around, we hope for news over the next 24 to 48 hours.”

    The Everton manager was happy to have secured back-to-back home wins either side of Monday’s 6-0 humiliation at Chelsea.

    “It is very pleasing considering the madness of the current situation – two wins and two clean sheets in three games, sandwiched by a horrible performance,” he said.

    “The reaction was very important today.”

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    West Ham boss David Moyes declared he was “embarrassed to be speaking on behalf of the team” after the Hammers’ European ambitions were dealt a significant blow in their 5-2 thrashing at Crystal Palace.

    The visitors were already facing a 4-0 deficit 31 minutes after kick-off at Selhurst Park thanks to Michael Olise’s nodded opener and an audacious overhead Eberechi Eze effort as well as the first of two for Jean-Philippe Mateta and an Emerson own goal.

    Antonio clawed one back before the break and Moyes’ men could take no credit for their second, a late own goal credited to Dean Henderson, who turned in Tyrick Mitchell’s backpass one minute from time.

    Moyes, who shot back tersely when asked about his job security, was far more forthcoming when it came to his scathing assessment of the Irons’ performance, saying: “The first half was as bad as I’ve seen us play. We’ve had three or four of these incidents.

    “I don’t think the team in the three years I have been here have gone to the depths, in three or four games this year. The first half was unacceptable. We mainly were defending, the way we started the game, we’re not connected in the way we’ve played.

    “You can’t play this level of football in the Premier League. We didn’t compete. It was hard to actually explain it.

    “I’m so disappointed for the supporters who came here today and in truth I’m embarrassed to sit here and actually be speaking on behalf of the team and the way they performed today but I’m the manager.

    “I’ve got to say I’ve not had many teams who have played like that in my whole career.”

    Moyes refused to blame tired legs from Thursday’s 1-1 Europa League quarter-final second leg draw with Leverkusen as an “excuse”, though when pressed for a “reason” conceded the tight turnaround probably did not help.

    And while he was adamant Sunday’s defeat would have “nothing do do with” how he would approach potential contract negotiations, when asked if his side’s performance could take the choice of a continued tenure out of his hands, simply replied: “If it is then it is” then later refused to take further questions on the subject.

    With Sunday’s defeat, the Hammers’ chances of returning to Europe next season look improbable, though the boss said his side will keep fighting until their fate is sealed.

    He said: “We might still have a chance. Because we lost a couple of games doesn’t mean we don’t still have a chance. We still do have a chance. We’ll keep going, keep trying to do it.

    “We’re just off the back of three years in Europe and it now sounds as though you’re talking about West Ham as a regular European team which is a big compliment, thank you very much.”

    Palace sealed back-to-back wins for the first time this season after their 1-0 triumph at Liverpool and a third for boss Oliver Glasner since he replaced Roy Hodgson in February.

    Glasner pointed to the easing of the injury crisis that has plagued Palace all season as a key factor in their improvement, with Sunday’s victory still a rare chance to witness what the Eagles can be capable of when the influential Eze and Olise are both healthy.

    He added: “That’s our first back-to-back win and this is our challenge: to keep this motivation high, to keep the way we want to play in offence and defence.

    “Because you always have to be concentrated, stay in your position, move the ball quick so that they don’t get the ball and this always starts in your mind if you are focused and concentrated.”

  • Unai Emery toasts ‘very good week’ for Aston Villa after win against Bournemouth Unai Emery toasts ‘very good week’ for Aston Villa after win against Bournemouth

    Unai Emery hailed a “fantastic” win that capped a “very good week” after Aston Villa came from behind to secure a 3-1 home win over Bournemouth.

    Having gone a goal down through Dominic Solanke’s 31st-minute penalty, the hosts turned things around with Morgan Rogers equalising in first-half stoppage time and second-half efforts following from Moussa Diaby and Leon Bailey, both set up by Ollie Watkins, who is the Premier League’s leading assist maker this season on 12, to go with his 19 goals.

    Villa again boosted their bid for Champions League football seven days after winning 2-0 at Arsenal, and three on from the penalty shootout triumph at Lille that took them into the Europa Conference League semi-finals.

    With four league games to go, the midlands outfit are now six points clear in fourth of fifth-placed Tottenham, who have two games in hand.

    Villa boss Emery said in his post-match press conference: “A very good week, very good, and today was fantastic.

    “Of course, those three points were very important, and I think we can be proud of our work and proud of how we are being consistent and trying to fight with Tottenham.”

    Villa can make the gap to Spurs nine points when they host Chelsea on Saturday, a day before Tottenham play their next match, at home against derby rivals Arsenal, and asked about that, Emery said: “Every match is very important.

    “Here against Brentford (a 3-3 draw on April 6) we didn’t achieve three points and were disappointed. We used that match to analyse with the players, and I think the reaction of the players was fantastic at Arsenal, and was fantastic as well today.

    “I think again the players are showing us their commitment to continue being demanding, to try to keep consistency at the end of the season.”

    Emery was also asked about being linked with Bayern Munich, to which the Spaniard replied: “I am focused here, 100 per cent.”

    Bournemouth stayed 13th, on 42 points with five games remaining.

    The Cherries’ record Premier League points tally for a season is the 46 accrued when finishing ninth under Eddie Howe in 2016-17.

    And boss Andoni Iraola said after the Villa game: “I think we have a clear goal right now and that is to beat the points record of Bournemouth.

    “I think we can do it, but it’s not going to be easy because we have very difficult games. We play away again against Wolves, then we have Brighton, Arsenal away (also Brentford at home and Chelsea away) – games where if we want to get the points we want, we are going to have to have a very, very good performance. That is what we are looking for.

    “Today we couldn’t do it, especially second half, and we need to improve if we want to get that.”

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