Guardiola praises Man City match-winner Mahrez

Riyad Mahrez has not always been able to find his best form since joining Manchester City from Leicester but his goal saw off Bournemouth.

Vincent Kompany and Riyad Mahrez

Vincent Kompany and Riyad Mahrez celebrate the latter's goal against Bournemouth on Saturday.   -  Getty Images

Pep Guardiola acknowledged Riyad Mahrez's winning goal at Bournemouth could be a huge moment for Manchester City's record signing.

Mahrez came on for the injured Kevin De Bruyne late in the first half at the Vitality Stadium and snuck a 55th-minute strike beyond Artur Boruc – City's sole reward for a dominant performance where Bournemouth failed to register a shot at goal.

The former Leicester City favourite has endured patchy form since making a £60million switch to the Etihad Stadium during the close season and last scored in the Premier League when City won at Watford in December.

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Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva and Leroy Sane continuing to excel in the wide attacking positions has also not helped Mahrez's cause but Guardiola maintains he has no doubts over the Algeria international's quality.

"It's so important for him [and] for the team," he told a post-match news conference.

"He has to know he has to compete with Bernardo and Sterling, he has to be ready.

"If he is positive and thinks, 'Okay my time is going to come' then his time is going to come because there are a lot of games.

"I don’t have any doubts about his quality, his mentality is aggressive but he has to understand where he is: a team that got 100 points [in the Premier League last season] and every single game fights and runs and plays.

"The people in front of him are Leroy, one of the most important players of last season; Bernardo, the best player in the league; and Raheem, an incredible player."

Victory moved City two points ahead of Liverpool at the Premier League summit, with Jurgen Klopp's men having the opportunity to redress the balance in Sunday's Merseyside derby against Everton.

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The win came at a cost, with De Bruyne hobbling off due to a hamstring injury and John Stones' first appearance after a groin injury absence curtailed after 47 minutes.

"Hopefully he is coming back soon but what is important is the guy who goes in," said Guardiola, who was glowing in his praise of his players as they continue to battle for honours on multiple fronts.

Centre-back John Stones was also withdrawn early in the second period on his return from a groin complaint and the City manager said: "John, I think, is a precaution. I think Kevin has a little bit of a muscular problem, a hamstring problem.

"But when you play 25 games in 93 days it is a physiological issue. We don't give players time to recover and with the rhythm we play we are demanding a lot. But we know if we lose we do not have a chance to win the title."

He added: "We have to fight every three days. Now we have one week [until hosting Watford in the Premier League] but you see April, after the international break, [the schedule] is scary.

"It's nice to be there. Winning two titles [the Community Shield and the EFL Cup] already this season, today we will sleep as leaders of the Premier League, in the last 16 of the Champions League and the Swansea game [in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup].

"If Liverpool win, big congratulations, but we never give up and to do every day what we did last season is incredible. Today is a special moment for all of us."

- Bournemouth gains unwanted PL first in Man City defeat -

Bournemouth set an unwanted Premier League record in its 1-0 defeat to Manchester City as it failed to register a single shot over the course of the 90 minutes.

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Since Opta began collecting the relevant data in the 2003-04 season, no home side had ever failed to produce a shot during a Premier League game.

It was the first time, home or away, that the Cherries had not managed a goal attempt in England's top flight, while they also failed to win a corner and defended 14 from City.

Bournemouth was restricted to 17.9 per cent possession – its lowest figure in the Premier League and way down on its average in the competition of 48.9 per cent.

"It was a tough game. We didn't have the ball," said Eddie Howe, who nevertheless was happy with the application his players showed on the back of a 5-1 midweek defeat at Arsenal.

"It pains me to say it because we want the ball, but even the most optimistic among us on the coaching staff knew we wouldn't have the ball.

"The goal is a difficult one for us to take because it’s not a thing of beauty, but I'm proud of the players."

Howe added: "It's very unlike us not to create a chance but that's credit to Manchester City - that's what they do, they strangle you with the ball."

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