Manchester City return to top but suffer double injury blow at Bournemouth

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Manchester City returned to the top of the Premier League but lost Kevin De Bruyne and John Stones to injury following a 1-0 success at Bournemouth.

Substitute Riyad Mahrez secured City’s fifth successive top-flight win with a low strike early in the second half after coming off the bench to replace the stricken De Bruyne.

With title rivals Liverpool not in action until Sunday’s Merseyside derby against Everton, City moved two points clear at the summit, albeit having played a game more.

But victory on the south coast, which was wrapped up without the hosts producing a shot at goal, came at a significant cost to Pep Guardiola’s side.

Creative midfielder De Bruyne limped off in first-half stoppage time with a suspected hamstring problem, before England defender Stones also exited prematurely minutes after the restart.

The fresh setback for De Bruyne, who has endured two lengthy lay-offs with knee injuries during a wretched campaign, was the main talking point of a one-sided first half.

After a brief conversation with Guardiola, he disappeared down the tunnel to be replaced by match-winner Mahrez.

Dominant City enjoyed 83 per cent possession in the opening period but failed to seriously test Cherries goalkeeper Artur Boruc.

Kevin De Bruyne, right, leaves the pitch after picking up an injury
Kevin De Bruyne, right, leaves the pitch after picking up an injury (Adam Davy/PA)

With a host of injuries and £25million record signing Jefferson Lerma completing a suspension, Cherries boss Eddie Howe selected a makeshift team.

Academy graduate Jack Simpson, who made his Premier League debut in a 4-0 defeat at City last season, was handed just his second top-flight start, with the hosts forced to defend deep in a 5-4-1 formation.

City suffered a second injury problem three minutes after the restart when Stones, returning following three games out with a groin issue, was replaced by captain Vincent Kompany.

Guardiola’s mood would have improved considerably seven minutes later.

The ball broke for David Silva in the Bournemouth box and he quickly shifted it to the right for Mahrez to power his first top-flight goal since December 4 past Boruc at the near post.

Bournemouth had conceded 30 goals in their previous 10 games against top-six opposition this season and would have lost by a far bigger margin had it not been for star man Boruc.

Raheem Sterling, who scored 10 times in his previous eight games against the Cherries, was twice denied by the veteran Polish keeper when through on goal, while Mahrez had a close-range header pushed away.

John Stones, centre, was also taken off injured for the champions
John Stones, centre, was also taken off injured for the champions (Adam Davy/PA)

City right-back Kyle Walker then incensed the home crowd and was shown a yellow card for scything down Josh King, with the Bournemouth player also booked for his reaction.

The missed opportunities mattered little in the end as mid-table Bournemouth were unable to carve out an opportunity as their winless run stretched to five games, leaving Guardiola to celebrate on the pitch in front of the travelling fans.

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