Man City 4 Bournemouth 0: Champions thrash Prem new-boys and they didn’t even need Haaland on the scoresheet

M

ERLING HAALAND may be the new kid in town – but there’s no doubting who remains the old master around here — Man City 4- 0 Bournemouth

Seconds before Haaland’s Etihad bow began, Kevin De Bruyne gave Manchester City’s deadly young striker the biggest of hugs.

Whether he whispered in his ear “Don’t forget, I’m still the gaffer, mind” is highly doubtful.

But given the way De Bruyne proceeded to turn on the sort of champion masterclass that has become the norm, rather than the exception, you wouldn’t have been surprised.

While all eyes were on Haaland – certainly the Bournemouth defence’s were, more often that it merited really – it was City’s Belgian who ran the show.

He scored one, made another, and generally wreaked havoc whenever the ball was glued to his magic feet.

Meanwhile Haaland managed just eight touches all game, albeit setting up Ilkay Gundogan for the opener.

Often, it should be pointed out, that was down to having two, sometimes three, men to snuff out any threat.

But even if Bournemouth had left Haaland to his own devices, when De Bruyne is in this mood, no-one else is ever going to steal the show.

The Cherries certainly weren’t. Although to be fair they were always going to be on a hiding to nothing against the champions, whether they had Europe’s most potent young hitman in the ranks or not.

They had gone to the Etihad as near 50-1 no hopers. The same price as United to actually win the league. In both cases you’d struggle to find anyone willing to risk a fiver.

Within five minutes the few daft souls – there are always some – who had done so would have realised they’d done their dough.

And that was before Haaland had made the most devastating of impacts with his first touch…even though it did take a tad over 18 minutes to arrive.

By then Bournemouth keeper Mark Travers had shown smart reactions to turn Phil Foden’s drive wide, when De Bruyne’s fizzer struck him on the heel to inadvertently tee him up.

But the dam burst when Gundogan drilled a ball into Haaland’s feet, with his back to goal, and Ben Pearson and Jefferson Lerma marshalling him.

They may as well not have bothered. For as Haaland spun and fell, he flicked out his foot to tee up Gundogan – who had carried on his run – perfectly and he produced a finish the Norwegian would have been happy with.

Mind you, that’s the thing with City. Just when you think you might have the shackles on one, someone else pops up to rip you apart.

And while Haaland may have a reputation as the greatest goalscorer around, De Bruyne is pretty much tops for everything else.

The brilliant Belgian can cause enough damage when you double team him. So back off and give him time and space, and the result is pretty much a given.

Yet that’s what Bournemouth did as he danced towards the edge of the box on half an hour – largely with half an eye on the lurking Haaland, just waiting for the killer pass.

It never came. Instead De Bruyne just strolled to the edge of the box and stroked the perfect finish into the far corner with the outside of his right boot.

If there had been little doubt to that point, there was certainly none thereafter. Damage limitation was as good as Bournemouth could hope for.

In fairness they did drag a save from Ederson when Pearson snapped in a shot, even if it was little more than a training ground stop.

Opposite number Travers was certainly getting a lot more work, although the Bournemouth keeper won’t have been happy at his efforts to keep out the third, from Foden.

Again the creation came from the masterful feet of De Bruyne, who nutmegged Chris Mapham with a cuttingly simple ball to tee up his team-mate.

Foden’s finish was anything but the greatest strike of his life…but still better than the efforts of Travers to keep it out.

Haaland’s one hint of a chance to that point had been a lofted Rodri ball which left him little space to control and get a shot off as it dropped over Lerma’s head.

And his instinctive, impulsive swinging boot produced a looping effort – tipped over by Travers – that was anything but a clinical take-aim-and-fire strike.

But by then we were already in “how many” territory, and Bournemouth can take some solace from the fact that they only leaked one more, 11 minutes from the end.

Admittedly it came from the boot of one of their own, Lerma inadvertently turning Joao Cancelo’s drilled cross into his own net, albeit under huge pressure.

Haaland himself was back on the bench at that stage, dragged off to a huge ovation by Pep Guardiola on 73 minutes.

His last act had been to drag a low strike wide of the far post. The big Norwegian needn’t worry…there are plenty of days in the sun to come for him.

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