Soccer-Foden strike keeps Man City on Liverpool's heels

Soccer Football - Premier League - AFC Bournemouth v Manchester City - Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth, Britain - February 24, 2024 Manchester City's Phil Foden scores their first goal Action Images via Reuters/Matthew Childs

BOURNEMOUTH, England (Reuters) -Manchester City secured a hard-earned 1-0 victory at Bournemouth on Saturday as Phil Foden's first-half goal moved them one point behind Premier League leaders Liverpool.

Foden converted from close range in the 24th minute and it proved enough for Pep Guardiola's side who were well below their best against a feisty Bournemouth.

The hosts looked capable of an equaliser after the break when Marcus Tavernier had two decent opportunities in quick succession and Enes Unal headed just wide at the death.

City have 59 points from 26 games with Liverpool, who play Chelsea in the League Cup final on Sunday, on 60.

The mark of champions is to accumulate victories even with sub-standard performances and City have proved masters of that in claiming three successive Premier League titles.

Despite dominating possession, they were severely tested at the Vitality Stadium and their relief at the final whistle was palpable as they held on to turn up the heat on Liverpool.

Guardiola's side lacked their usual fluency but still stretched their unbeaten league run to 11 games with a second successive 1-0 victory, after a midweek win over Brentford.

"The players surprise me every time, the character, always competitive when they are tired," Guardiola said.

"Winning 0-5 is not a reality. Hopefully we can have a week off soon to rest the legs."

Erling Haaland still looked short of his best form after returning from injury and missed an early opportunity when he fired wide with the sort opportunity he usually converts.

But City have plenty of other match-winners, not least Foden who once again displayed his increasingly influential role in the team as he poached his ninth league goal of the season.

Haaland showed great strength to roll his marker and get a shot off that home keeper Neto did well to keep out but the ball fell to Foden who coolly turned in the rebound.

Shortly before that, City keeper Ederson was forced into a save from Milos Kerkez's dipping effort.

City could not build on their lead after the break, however, and Bournemouth, roared on by a vociferous home crowd, pinned them back as Tavernier twice went close and leading scorer Dominic Solanke also had a good opportunity.

Bournemouth's best chance fell to substitute Unal as his header skidding off the turf and inches wide of the post.

Bournemouth are without a win in their last seven league matches and are eight points above the relegation zone in 14th place in the table.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond)

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