Date: 13 February 2017
The last time I'd seen the Cherries play Manchester City was 13 February 1999. The score was 0-0. On the exact same date this year, 13 February, I watched us lose 0-2.
But there the comparison ends. Both teams have come a long way since 1999. We, seemingly, have come a long way since recent games. And we looked very lively today; but the result was still fair.
Arriving at the stadium and looking at the away team line-up – with players like Toure, Sterling and Stones – one inevitably felt somewhat overwhelmed. Even more noticeable was the presence of players like Kompany and Aguero on their bench! And this strength in depth was to prove vital. In the 14th minute City had an enforced substitution through injury and brought on – Aguero! Then we had an enforced substitution and brought on – Mings! No disrespect to Mings (and of course he plays in a very different position) but he’s hardly an Aguero! This also unsettled the side because it forced Steve Cook into his less preferred position on the right of the centre back pairing. As if this wasn’t enough, four minutes into the five added at the end of the first half (and one wonders why Eddie didn’t just wait till the break) Wilshere also had to be substituted, but instead of bringing on Gosling Eddie chose Afobe, thus altering the whole system – and meaning that ironically we only moved to the 4-2-3-1 system, originally picked to accommodate Wilshere, after Wilshere had departed the pitch!
The other aspect of looking at the teams pre-match was the discovery that in all but one position Eddie had selected the players I would have chosen. Yes, I too would have preferred Ibe over Stanislas, and King over Afobe. But the difference was that he’d selected Surman in preference to Gosling. The reason transpired to be that he was going 4-1-4-1 (with Surman in front of the back four) rather than 4-2-3-1. As already mentioned, the system had to change after 23 minutes when Francis went off the pitch. Initially, Surman covered Francis’ position, but when it became clear that Francis wasn’t returning, Surman reverted to the midfield and put on the captain’s armband. Six minutes later, Sterling tapped in a shot from the far post when Cook and Daniels had both failed to deal with the cross, and we were 0-1 down. Within a minute of that, King had the ball in the back of the net at the other end, but this didn’t count as he was judged to have pulled Stones’ shirt. Right on half time, we won a corner kick, for which Arter and Fraser attempted something really clever (involving a few 1-2’s and then a shot from an acute angle) that totally failed to come off; our players, packed into the box, looked on frustrated as the ball sailed over the Ted MacDougall Stand. This all took place right in front of the visiting supporters who inevitably, and justifiably, mocked. (They were a very vocal set of supporters anyway, with some good songs. My personal favourite was “Guardiola” to the tune of “Glad All Over”!) So it was 0-1 at half time and, because of the 15 minutes’ late start (for TV) and five minutes time added on, it was now 20 minutes later in the evening than one would expect!
In the second half we continued to play better than of late – and I was particularly pleased by how well Adam Smith and Ibe cooperated on the right wing – but in the seventieth minute Sterling beat Smith to put in a cross from City’s left that resulted in an Aguero shot. The shot actually went in off Mings in the end, but was probably going in anyway. The introduction of our final substitute, Pugh, five minutes later (with Fraser swapping wings), couldn’t impact the final score, especially now that City were passing the ball round and round and round the field and never giving it away. 0-2.
Before the match, two mascots had been interviewed. The Manchester City mascot was 7 years old, favourite player Silva (who was captain on the night, because Kompany was on the bench), and predicted 1-0 to City. Most of us felt we’d take that! The Boscombe mascot was a 9 year old, favourite player Wilshere, and predicted a draw. We’d certainly take that! Given recent results, and Manchester City being about as tough an opposition as we’ll meet, I think we’d accept 0-2 as well! What really counts now is how we’ll perform in the ‘six-pointer’ matches against lowlier opposition.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):