City blew Bournemouth away with a display of first-half brilliance at the Vitality Stadium. After a painful Premier League run of just one win in six, the green shoots of a Spring recovery were clearly in evidence on the south coast with a performance packed full of purpose, precision and most importantly, goals. That the victory came with the return of star midfielder Kevin De Bruyne after the international break is surely no coincidence. The Belgian’s brand of calm incision was stamped all over the game from the first minute and culminated in his delightfully volleyed goal to put City two up. Not only did De Bruyne impress individually, he also sparked the collective, with Silva finding more space to play and Aguero dominating the home defence. De Bruyne’s goal was sandwiched by equally well-taken efforts from Fernando and Argentinian ace Aguero; City were three up inside 18 minutes and ultimately enjoyed a stroll in the Saturday sunshine. Substitute Aleks Kolarov added the gloss with an emphatic injury-time finish. The task now is to carry this form into the Champions League quarter-final clash with PSG, and the seven remaining Premier League games. There were five changes to the side that lost the derby, with De Bruyne, Nicolas Otamendi, Pablo Zabaleta, Fernando and Willy Caballero coming into the team. Samir Nasri was a notable name on the bench, the Frenchman back in the matchday squad for the first time since 17 October after recovering from a serious thigh muscle injury. The headline team news was De Bruyne’s return and he showed City fans just what they have been missing with a supremely effective first half. But for one scuffed shot from Josh King, it was all City early on. Pellegrini’s players were looking as bright on the ball as the Bournemouth weather and the breakthrough soon came. Jesus Navas fired in a low corner that flicked up to Fernando, who was the calmest person in the ground as he flipped a volley past Artur Boruc and high into the net for his first goal of the season. The Brazilian was an unlikely candidate to break City’s relative goal drought – the Blues’ last came against Aston Villa on 5 March – but the old habits came flooding back. De Bruyne was next to try his luck with a low shot from distance that worked Boruc, but it was soon two, and how! Charlie Daniels embarked on an ill-advised dribble in field from the full back position. David Silva picked his pocket, played a quick fire one-two with Aguero before teeing up De Bruyne, who coolly volleyed in for his 13th of the season. De Bruyne had a great chance to make it three soon after but lashed at a loose ball on the edge of the box and it flew over. City were looking razor sharp every time they moved forward, with De Bruyne’s direct play shredding the Cherries defence. He released Navas down the right, the Spaniard stood a cross up to the back post where Aguero timed his leap perfectly to head back across goal and in. Only the woodwork prevented a fourth as Fernandinho spun and laced a swerving shot beyond Boruc but onto the bar. Such was City’s dominance that Willy Caballero deserves great credit for his reaction save to deny Steve Cook’s header, with the Argentinian stopper a virtual bystander up until that point. After a flutter of Cherries attacks normal service resumed, with Aguero curling one left-footed effort wide before Navas lashed over. There was no let up immediatebly after the break, with another crisp De Bruyne volley forcing a brilliant save low down to his left by Boruc. Just 55 minutes were on the clock when Pellegrini decided De Bruyne’s day’s work was done, with Kolarov his replacement. By that point the game was all but won, and try as they might to keep the intensity flowing, the urgency of the first period was ebbing away. Nasri’s introduction on 65 minutes for David Silva added to the feel-good factor though. The Frenchman has endured a long road back from a freak training ground thigh injury, but should be fit and fresh for the season finale. The chances kept coming - Boruc’s left-boot denied Kolarov a goal after a counter-attack after the Serbian was set free by Aguero. That was to be the Argentinian’s last contribution, with Kelechi Iheanacho replacing him late on. Kolarov had the final say, rocketing in a fourth to sign the game off in style.
Bournemouth (0): Boruc, Smith (Elphick 66), Francis, Cook, Daniels, Ritchie, O'Kane, Surman, Gradel (Gosling, 85), Grabban, King (Pugh, 45)
Manchester City (4): Caballero, Zabaleta, Otamendi, Mangala, Clichy, Navas, Fernando, Fernandinho, Silva (Nasri 65), De Bruyne (Kolarov, 55), Aguero (Iheancho 75)
Goals: Fernando 7, De Bruyne 12, Aguero 18, Kolarov 90