David Silva and Gabriel Jesus did the damage as Manchester City earned an unconvincing 2-1 home win over Bournemouth on Wednesday, nudging their visitors closer to the brink.
Eddie Howe's Cherries went into the contest on the back of a shock 4-1 win over Champions League hopefuls Leicester City, but they had no such joy in Manchester, with Silva providing another reminder of his class as his Premier League career winds to its conclusion.
The Spanish midfielder opened the scoring with a wonderful free-kick and then found Jesus for City's excellent second, but in the intervening period Bournemouth were twice unfortunate not to net themselves.
Joshua King then strayed agonisingly offside while scoring a second-half goal the visitors had chalked off, before David Brooks did net legally two minutes from time.
But it was too little, too late, as City clung on at the end and Bournemouth remained three points adrift of safety.
Although Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling dropped to the bench, City began with great intent and took just six minutes to open the scoring – Silva bending a free-kick around the wall and in from 25 yards.
Bournemouth responded excellently, however.
Junior Stanislas went close with a free-kick of his own just past the half-hour mark, as Ederson tipped it on to the post and then got lucky as the ball struck his head and went out for a corner.
Dominic Solanke then saw a close-range effort crucially deflected just over by Nicolas Otamendi, and City capitalised in the 39th minute, Jesus finding the bottom-right corner after a wonderful slaloming run.
Bournemouth were unfortunate again with an hour played – King turned Stanislas' shot in from close range, but a VAR review showed the Norwegian was marginally offside.
City had another escape soon after, with Dan Gosling's effort blocked by Ilkay Gundogan after Ederson had fumbled a cross.
Ederson's clean sheet was wiped out in the 88th minute, with Callum Wilson squaring to Brooks for an easy finish on the break, but City managed to hold on in the face of intense late pressure.
What does it mean? A hint of hope remains for Bournemouth
Even after their remarkable win over Leicester, this was never going to be a realistic chance for three points, given the obvious gulf between the two sides.
In any other scenario, this loss would have essentially doomed Bournemouth, but they can take solace in the fact that at least one of Watford and West Ham – the two teams directly above them on 34 points – will drop points on Friday as they face each other at London Stadium.
Silva stands out
It was hardly a vintage performance from City, but Silva was his usual classy self, opening the scoring in style, before releasing Jesus for his goal with a well-weighted pass.
Big shoes to Phil
Phil Foden is expected to be Silva's so-called heir at City, and while there is no doubt he is a fine talent, he was a little quiet in this game. He did eventually come to life towards the end, setting up half-time substitute Sterling for a chance before then going close himself, but on the whole he was somewhat disappointing.
Key Opta Stats:
- City have won their last six home Premier League matches by an aggregate score of 21-1.
- Although they lost 2-1, Bournemouth were the first team to attempt more shots at goal (14-8) than City in a league match at the Etihad since Stoke City in April 2016.
- They were also the first opposing away team to do so against a side managed by Pep Guardiola since Hoffenheim in March 2014 when he was Bayern Munich boss.
- This was Guardiola's 150th Premier League match as manager – he has won 111 games so far, six more than any other manager won in their first 150 in the competition.
- Silva has scored with each of his last two direct free-kick attempts in the Premier League, with those coming in his last three games – he had scored just one direct free-kick in his previous 305 appearances.
City turn their attentions to the FA Cup now, as they prepare to face Arsenal at Wembley in Saturday's semi-final clash, before going to Watford in the league three days later. Bournemouth's faltering fight against relegation resumes with the visit of Southampton on Sunday.