Date: 24th September 2016 at 7:52pm
Written by: Neil Dawson

After much gloom this week, normal service resumed on a pulsating afternoon at Dean Court. Unbeaten Everton, looking to go top, arrived to play Bournemouth whose ‘first’ and ‘second’ teams had endured a difficult seven days and some home truths from Eddie. The reaction was there for all to see with a performance of sheer force of nature, a lot of skill and one in which every man fought for the cause. To cap all that off with a save and a goal worthy of winning any match just glossed the occasion.

Bournemouth made one change from last week’s whooping, King was presumably carrying a knock as he would have made the squad at least so Wilson returned up front. 4-2-3-1 again the order of the day. Bournemouth went at it like a team stung – in the opening seconds Daniels whipped in a cross that Wilson headed millimetres past the post. The intensity had returned to the play and never really left for 90 minutes with no blue shirt able to settle for a second.

Despite all the early pressure it was Everton who nearly took the lead in the tenth minute. An in-swinging free-kick found Lukaku unmarked six yards out and his bullet corner was, to 99.99% of everyone in the ground in the bottom corner. Artur Boruc had different ideas though and a body movement rarely seen outside of rhythmic gymnastics coupled with a strong wrist saw the big Pole pull off one of the saves of the stadiums history and generate a standing ovation.

From that moment on though, Bournemouth produced a faultless first half performance. The passing was slick, the pressing indefatigable and the invention in the moves mesmerising. Three golden chances came and went – Wilson burst past Williams and squared for Wilshere whose shot deflected onto the cross-bar. Ibe then cut in, beat three players and slammed a drive just past the far post. Arter, who was starting to generate the game of his life then jinked past three people and slammed a left foot drive that seemed in all the way…..but somehow swerved late the wrong way.

It was beginning to look like the purple patch might not be yielding for the home team but a glorious moment put these thoughts to bed. If Junior Stanislas ever ends up at Everton for a big fee then there will be no surprises here. Enigmatic probably best sums him up but there is no doubt that the sight of the word Chang seems to fire him up like a sailor on leave. Another sumptuous move wound it’s way down the left and Ibe and Arter intricately found STANISLAS lurking 25 yards out. His first touch set the ball up into the perfect spot for his right foot to smote a searing, curling drive past Stekelenburg and into the top corner of the Blues net. A stunning goal.

The game continued at pace, Everton forcing their way slightly back into it but the defence, holding firm kept them at bay. There was a brief respite from the drama for a quick Arter/Artur love in. The former tying the latter’s boots while having their hair ruffled by a big yellow glove…A beautiful moment.

HT Bournemouth 1 Everton 0

You expected Everton to come out at it, but this didn’t really happen. Wilshere was growing into the game off the back of Arter’s endless energy and starting to spin and caress the ball around the pitch. Surman, Stanislas and Ibe were at it like never seen this season in terms of covering and harrying and Everton were fast running out of ideas as a result. Barkley had one header from Delofeu’s cross that thankfully flew the right side of the post as Koeman rang the changes moving from 4-2-3-1 to 4-1-4-1 and then 4-2-4 in the desperation to get back in the game.

Their main threat was Bolassie but he was run into the ground chasing Smith – a clever tactical move by Eddie to keep him going backwards until he tired. Deulofeu livened it up a little for the visitors and Boruc made another great acrobatic save to claw his vicious shot cum cross from under the bar. Enner Valencia tried to repeat his goalscoring exploits from last year on this ground but stooped to head wide as Bournemouth tired but held on.

Afobe, Gosling and Gradel arrived at different points for Wilson, Wilshere and Ibe who were tiring the most and this just injected the right amount of energy to keep the pressing going. Chances were few and far between for Bournemouth but the play remained largely excellenct with some fantastic interchanges. I kept waiting for the energy to drop but it didn’t – none more so than in the pleasantly demonic figure of Harry Arter who snarled, snapped and thundered his way around the pitch in a performance heralded by John Motson as the best midfield display he had seen in many a year. Few would argue.

FT Bournemouth 1 Everton 0

Boruc 9 – His acrobatic season of excellence reaches new heights.

Smith 9 – Outstanding bullying of Bolassie into playing his game.
Cook 8 – Hard working, concentration, strong into tackles.
Francis 8 – Had Lukaku in his back pocket, knew when to stand off.
Daniels 8 – A return, one slip aside, to his best form.

Stanislas 9 – Inventive, assured, hard working and great goal.
Surman 8 – Another player back to top form, more decisive.
Arter 10 – Who am I to argue with John Motson.
Wilshere 8 – Grew as the game went on into showing his class.
Ibe 8 – First half had them on toast, faded a little.

Wilson 8 – Tough shift against two class centre halfs and ran them.
Well………that was more like it! There was radio debate going on about what was our best performance with Willo and a few other’s saying this was it. Personally, I’d put it equal with the home game against Southampton last year but that was the best performance I’d seen by any Bournemouth team so this therefore…….also is. The two games were very similar just without the luxury of a second goal. The sheer energy and concentration that went into this was just outstanding. Interesting as well that the opposition manager on both occasions was Koeman. How much respect must he have for us?!

Perhaps the most pleasing aspect of this game as well was, unlike the Southampton game, it came with the team and certain key players in questionable form. To see Daniels, Surman, Stanislas and a few other’s reach their highest levels gives a great boost for the future and tells us that whatever happens, we have got staying up in our own hands.

I think from various interviews that Eddie has spent most of the week reminding the squad here of their responsibilities. He got the reaction he wanted today…….and we got the game and result we wanted. Can’t wait for Match of the Day on this one!

Report by Neil Dawson

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