Eddie Howe praised his team's performance against the champions despite 'ugly' winner as Cherries reclaimed their 'respectability'
(Getty Images - Robin Jones)

AFC Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe praised an improved defensive performance from his players who went toe-to-toe with last season's runaway champions but admitted Manchester City's ugly winner left the Cherries boss hugely frustrated.

However, in the wake of their 5-1 humbling to Arsenal in midweek, the Premier League's youngest manager believes his team reclaimed their 'respectability' with a much tighter defensive performance against arguably the current best team in Europe.

Substitute Riyad Mahrez came off the bench to stab home the only goal of the game to become the unlikely hero and net his first goal in just under three months.

Following the Cherries first home defeat in five league matches, Howe said: “We were pleased with how we defended. We had to answer a few questions from Wednesday.

“We pride ourselves on being organised and giving everything to every match, and not allowing standards to drop. But on Wednesday it was difficult.

“Today we did that. The back three performed really well, considering their ages and lack of experience.

“They produced some really good performances individually and collectively and that meant we were in the game.

“The only disappointment for me would be that their goal will probably be the ugliest goal they will score this season.

“We have to share the blame. It was one of the few times where we weren’t as aggressive in our defending as we would have wanted.

“It wasn’t a beautiful goal and you normally associate a different way of scoring with Man City. And that will frustrate us because in that moment, we were still very much in the match.”

A bridge too far against a superior opponent

Despite defending admirably in a makeshift young defensive back-five, the hosts only saw just 18 per cent of the ball and failed to even manage one shot at goal. 

In City's last two league matches they have only faced two shots which would suggest the Cherries (and West Ham on Wednesday) maybe showed the champions too much respect despite the visitor's mouth-watering ability to keep hold of the ball and annihilate possesion statistics.

Howe said: “It’s a difficult one because we usually go into games with a completely different mindset – very front foot, wanting the ball and wanting to take the game to the opposition.

“I felt if we had done that today, we would have left ourselves too open with their quality, so we did it a different way.

“I’m pleased with the effort, not necessarily everything about the performance but the effort was there and the determination to do everything to try to get the result was there, and that’s all we can ask.”

The Cherries had been off the back of seven consecutive away defeats but were once again a different beast at home with only City and Liverpool the only two teams to beat Bournemouth in their previous seven home games.

Pep Guardiola labelled the victory as 'incredible' and 'one of the best performances we've ever played' and Howe concurred with that observation against one of the Premier League's all-time great teams.

Howe added: “Their technical level was so high. We are waiting for mistakes, for them to force passes and get frustrated and they didn’t.

“They kept doing the right thing, the simple thing and it meant our chances to attack were really limited.

“If you think back to how many technical mistakes they made, there were very few and it was that control which made it very difficult for us to get a foothold in the game.

“Even when we tried to change things for the last 20 minutes and apply pressure, it never really happened.”