London -Pep Guardiola hailed his "incredible" Manchester City players after
the Premier League champions dug deep to beat Bournemouth 1-0 on
Saturday and return to the top of the table.
55th-minute goal eventually settled matters at the Vitality Stadium,
moving City two points ahead of title rivals Liverpool ahead of the
Reds' Merseyside derby meeting with Everton on Sunday.
made to work for the win against a Bournemouth side who defended in
numbers and failed to register a single attempt on goal.
manager Guardiola was impressed with the way his players stuck to their
task, insisting their performance underlined they have no intention of
giving up their title easily.
"We made one of the best
performances we have played, they (Bournemouth) were very organised,"
said Guardiola. "But they didn't have one shot, we defended well from
throw-ins and free-kicks."
The Spaniard added: "We created a few
chances, people should understand how difficult it is to attack 11
players (who are defending). Thanks to the players, they are absolutely
"We demand a lot of the players without giving them
the time to rest physiologically, that is why it is incredible. No
matter what happens this season, they deserve my admiration."
could overhaul Guardiola's side with victory at Goodison Park and the
City manager admitted he cannot predict how the final weeks of the
season will unfold.
But he was satisfied with the levels of
commitment shown by his team who overcame the losses of Kevin De Bruyne
and John Stones either side of half-time.
"No one knows what is
going to happen at the end of the season but these players deserve my
admiration and my respect," Guardiola said.
"After two seasons I
have the squad that I want. And when that happens you are proud," the
former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager added.
satisfaction was reflected in the way he celebrated victory on the pitch
with his players in front of the visiting fans.
until Mahrez - who had replaced De Bruyne immediately before the
interval - beat Bournemouth goalkeeper Artur Boruc at his near post,
the visitors had created few clear opportunities against a determined
Mahrez has endured a testing time since moving
to the Etihad Stadium in pre-season and Guardiola acknowledged the
significance of Saturday's goal for the Algeria winger.
"It was so important for him as it was for the team," said the manager.
he knows he has to compete with other players. He has to be ready. He
has to be positive and say 'ok my time is going to come'. Because I
don't have any doubt about his quality.
"I know his mentality is
aggressive but he has to understand where he is. He is at a team that
won 100 points and in every single game fight and won. And the people in
front are incredible players."
De Bruyne limped off with a hamstring injury while Stones has a problem with his groin.
"John came off as a precaution. He felt it tighten a little and we didn't want to take any risks," explained Guardiola.
will find out about Kevin tomorrow (Sunday). But it is to be expected
when we have played 25 games in something like 93 days."
Eddie Howe, the Bournemouth manager, was satisfied with the way his side responded to a 5-1 defeat at Arsenal in midweek.
answered a lot of questions after Wednesday when we let ourselves
down," he said. "My only disappointment is their goal, which was
probably the ugliest they'll score all season.
"That cost us the
game. Their technical level was so high. We were waiting for them to
make a mistake or get frustrated but they didn't do that."