Sergio Aguero roared back into action for Manchester City, claiming a sharp goal and helping them move into position as Chelsea’s top challengers for the Premier League title with a crucial 2-0 win at struggling Bournemouth on Monday.
Aguero was once again left on the bench, amid yet more speculation about his uncertain future at City, as Guardiola preferred his new Brazilian teenage sensation Gabriel Jesus.
But after the youngster’s fairytale start to life in English football was rudely interrupted by an early ankle injury, Aguero replaced him and took the opportunity to remind everyone of his enduring quality after Raheem Sterling had put City ahead just before the half-hour.
In the 69th minute, the Argentine slid in to slot home a low cross from Sterling, and although Bournemouth defender Tyrone Mings may have got the final touch for an own goal – the dubious goals panel will make the final ruling – no-one was going to persuade Aguero that it was not his goal.
After prevailing in an entertaining contest at chilly Dean Court, City always looked likely to move to within eight points of leaders Chelsea once Sterling slotted in from close range soon after he had also hit the post.
Bournemouth thought they had equalised through Josh King straight after Sterling’s goal but the striker was penalised for tugging the shirt of John Stones in the build-up and Eddie Howe’s men, 14th in the table and quickly getting sucked into the relegation battle, still remain without a win in 2017.
Bournemouth, looking to end a run of six games without a win in all competitions, set a blistering pace and pressed high, severely testing City’s preference for playing the ball out of defence.
As the half hour approached, City had a lucky escape when winger Jordon Ibe broke through on the right after a one-two with midfielder Jack Wilshere and shot low but Willy Caballero spread himself well saving with his right foot.
The next time City attacked they opened the scoring when Leroy Sane crossed from the left, the ball took a slight deflection on defender Steve Cook on its way to the far post and Sterling turned it into the net.
Little more than a minute later King had the ball in the City net but the goal was disallowed, the big striker having pulled Stones back before racing onto Ibe’s cross into the box to shoot past Caballero.
Bournemouth kept up their momentum after the break making it even harder for City to move play out of their half and Caballero made a fine diving save from Harry Arter.
But City — the change in central striker not altering the balance of the settled side Pep Guardiola has found since the 3-0 FA Cup win at Crystal Palace last month — were always the more dangerous team on the break and they went two up in the 69th minute.
Sterling cut in on the left and crossed low into the six-yard box where Aguero was quickest to the ball to turn it past Artur Boruc.
Sane almost made it three when his effort from the left came back off the post and again in stoppage time when he shot wide of the far post with only Boruc to beat.