Jeremy Doku score on and created four as Manchester City crushed Bournemouth at the Etihad Stadium. The Belgian took centre stage as the blues produced a dominant display to pick off the Cherries at will and return to the top of the table. Bernardo Silva also bagged a brace and goals for Manuel Akanji, Phil Foden and Nathan Ake completed a big win for the boys in blue.
It wasn’t all great though as the blues lost Erling Haaland at half-time and the focus will switch to the Norwegian’s fitness ahead of City’s Champions League match against Young Boys on Tuesday.
But the performance of Doku delighted City fans, who have seen flashes of his skill and epitomised why Guardiola was determined to sign the young Belgian star. Time and again, Doku found space and terrorised the Bournemouth defence with exceptional speed and skill to the point where the visitors would have been begging for the final whistle.
And his first home goal for the club demonstrated his talent with aplomb, firing his shot home after a neat exchange with Rodri. By this stage, City had already hit the post through Haaland in an utterly dominant performance that could well have seen the blues hit more than six, and it was a surprise that the faithful had to wait for 30 minutes for the first goal. But when it came, it was a real striker’s finish from Doku.
The Belgian took a return pass from Rodri and, with four Bournemouth players around him and one in front of goal. Doku curled the ball around the defender, past the keeper and into the bottom corner.
As is sometimes the case with City, when they get one, they have the potential to get a hatful and Saturday afternoon was no different. Just three minutes later, Doku charged forward and exchanged passes with Kyle Walker, which released the Belgian into the Bournemouth penalty area. Some tricky skill by the winger bamboozled the Bournemouth defender, before picking out the run of Silva, who finished neatly into the corner of the goal with a first-time effort.
Bournemouth heads dropped, before falling apart completely just four minutes later when Akanji, somewhat fortuitously, claimed City’s third. A short corner was worked on the edge of the box, before Silva found an unmarked Doku. The winger took a touch and unleashed a left-foot shot that looked to be heading wide, until it took a deflection of Akanji’s back and into the back of the goal for 3-0. The Switzerland defender barely knew anything about it, but wasn’t going to be denied a goal to his name.
Given how the blues were, City had the opportunity to turn the match into a goal-fest but seemed to take their foot of the gas for a while in the second half, which was firmly demonstrated right at the start. Star striker Dominic Solanke thought he’d scored within the first minutes of the restart, but his goal at the near post was ruled out for offside. Bournemouth would later hit the post as City relaxed.
However, Doku took matters into his own hands in the 64th minute to set up Foden, who had replaced the injured Haaland at half-time. charging at the retreating Bournemouth defence, Doku spotted the run of Foden and picked out the England star with precision. Foden still had a bit to do but dug the ball out and fired home.
A rare foray forward by the visitors in the 74th minute yielded a goal for the travelling supporters to celebrate and, while it didn’t have the makings of a dramatic comeback, it was one that caught City napping and again prevented Ederson from keeping a clean sheet. Max Aarons got away from the City defence and found Luis Sinisterra in acres of space, who fired past the City keeper after turning the defender.
That goal seemed to wake the blues and it was Doku who created the fifth, with Silva finishing in style. Deep in his own half, Doku had not only the vision to spot the run of Silva, but the skill to split the Bournemouth defence and release the Portuguese midfielder. The City man outclassed the defender, before producing a cheeky little chip over the keeper from the tightest of angles. The Bournemouth defence tried to clear off the line and Matheus Nunes hammered the ball home to make sure. but the ball had been deemed to have crossed the line and Bernardo had his brace.
Silva was replaced moments after his second goal by another academy product, Oscar Bobb, who wasted no time in providing the cross for City’s sixth. Taking a pass from Nunes, Bobb found some space and crossed low into the area where Ake produced a predatory finish, diving low to meet Bobb’s cross.
Bobb almost got his second assist when he released Mateo Kovacic, but the keeper was equal to the shot to keep the score at six.
Step Forward Belgian Number Two
What is it about Belgians playing for Manchester City? With Kevin de Bruyne out injured since the opening day, questions were asked about who would provide the blues scoring opportunities. Well, Doku has firmly answered that question and, at just 21 years old, City could well have found a long-term replacement for de Bruyne.
Despite being 32, de Bruyne is showing no signs of letting up, however, injuries seem to be plaguing him at the moment. Forced off in the Champions League final, de Bruyne lasted just 23 minutes against Burnley and is not expected back until the New Year. However, Doku stepped up to the plate on Saturday, providing four assists, with his final one for Silva’s second coming straight out of the de Bruyne assist manual.
Spotting the run of Silva was one thing, to pick him out with such a precise pass is another. Yet Doku had the skill to do just that and release the Portuguese star into acres of space. Of course, Silva still had much to do, but to be found like that takes a good eye and superb passing ability - and Doku demonstrated he has both.
Like his fellow countryman, Doku has no fear about charging forward and attacking the opposition, forcing defenders to retreat before picking out a pass, as he did for Foden’s goal. And Doku eye for a pass, such as spotting the run of Foden when Kovacic was available is just a taste of what City fans will have to look forward to when the dreaded day arrives and King Kev leaves the club or hangs up his boots.
The young Belgian still has a lot to learn and will no doubt continue to improve under Guardiola, and that will no doubt send a ripple of fear throughout the rest of the Premier League.