Manchester City celebrated their European reprieve with a 2-1 win that pushed Bournemouth closer to relegation as David Silva and Gabriel Jesus produced eye-catching goals on Wednesday.
Silva opened the scoring with a superb free-kick and set up Jesus’s solo effort at the Etihad Stadium to leave Bournemouth three points from safety despite David Brooks’ late goal.
Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe said “nothing is impossible” after his side secured their first victory in 10 games against Leicester on Sunday.
But a ninth successive away defeat means Bournemouth go into their final matches against Southampton and Everton likely needing two wins to have a chance of extending their five-year stay in the top flight.
With West Ham and Watford — the teams directly above Bournemouth — meeting on Friday, the Cherries are not down yet, but they are in severe danger of slipping into the Championship.
City’s mood is far more upbeat after the Court of Arbitration for Sport backed their appeal against UEFA’s two-season Champions League ban on Monday.
Already assured of second place in the Premier League, City’s priorities are Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal and their Champions League last 16, second-leg clash with Real Madrid next month.
Having lost the Premier League title to Liverpool, City seem determined to add more trophies to the League Cup they won earlier this season.
They have won their last three games, scoring 12 goals in the process.
Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne were on the bench as Guardiola made six changes, but the imperious Silva endured they were not missed.
Silva will leave at the end of the season and Guardiola says the Spanish midfielder deserves a statue to recognise his remarkable 10 years with City.
That tribute came after Silva’s fine free-kick against Newcastle and the 34-year-old took just six minutes to produce another sumptuous set-piece at Bournemouth’s expense.
Fouled by Jefferson Lerma, Silva dusted himself down, took aim from the right-hand side of the penalty area and curled his free-kick past Aaron Ramsdale’s despairing dive into the roof of the net.
Fearing the worst
City had scored 17 goals in their four previous home games since the coronavirus hiatus.
So Silva’s sixth goal of the season had Bournemouth fearing the worst, especially when Fernandinho fired just wide from 25 yards moments later.
After a bright start, City lost a little rhythm and Bournemouth’s Josh King was given room for a shot that drifted wide.
City keeper Ederson was called on to make a superb save as he pushed Junior Stanislas’s free-kick onto the post.
Ederson came to the rescue again to deny Dan Gosling before Dominic Solanke’s effort from the rebound was blocked by Otamendi.
Despite their wobble, City’s ability to conjure a moment of magic remains unparallelled and they doubled their lead through Jesus’s sublime effort in the 39th minute.
This time Silva was the provider with a deft pass to Jesus, who glided past a gaggle of Bournemouth defenders, nutmegged Jack Stacey and fired into the far corner.
Jesus’s third goal in his last three games took him to 21 this season in all competitions, a well-timed spree with Sergio Aguero sidelined after knee surgery.
City could have had a penalty before the interval when Ramsdale spilled the ball and Jesus appeared to have his foot clipped by Lerma, but VAR opted not to intervene.
King had the ball in the net in the second half but his effort was ruled out by VAR for an extremely tight offside.
VAR intervened again to overturn Lee Mason’s penalty decision when Jesus was challenged by Steve Cook.
Bournemouth were given hope by Brooks when the former City academy graduate tapped in from Callum Wilson’s cross in the 88th minute, but it was too late to salvage a point.