Written by Rodmorg
Sweeping aside MK Dons and edging past Blackburn Rovers in a 5 goal thriller previously, Bournemouth faced perhaps their most testing rival so far in the Carabao Cup – Norwich City. The in-form Norfolk side currently sit only two points behind the leaders Sheffield United in the Championship and thus it would prove to be a difficult challenge to overcome the former Premier League side.
As per usual for Cup fixtures, Eddie opted for a much-changed side; with the likes of Surman, Defoe, Stanislas and Pugh coming into the side, and only Steve Cook, Charlie Daniels and Simon Francis retaining their places from the impressive 0-3 win against Fulham the previous weekend. Eddie once again utilised a 3-4-3 formation, Artur Boruc started in goal with Daniels unnaturally in Centre-back partnering Francis and Cook, Rico and Stanislas occupying the left flank, while Pugh and Ibe played on the right flank, with Surman and Gosling sitting behind Defoe up front. An interesting line-up against a particularly proficient side.
After a one minute’s silence was held to remember the deaths of the victims of the tragic helicopter crash outside Leicester City’s King Power Stadium, the fans were in full voice as the match began, and the tempo was high in an instant. Within the first five minutes, a lay-off by Pugh alongside the right flank allowed Defoe to shoot from roughly 12 yards out, with the ball powerfully going over the crossbar, much to the spectators’ surprise.
Norwich gradually grew into the game, and Bournemouth nearly regretted their defensive leniency. A long ball over the top of the defence allowed Passlack to be given plenty of space as he chested down the ball and took a gentle shot that trickled past Boruc’s right post. An early warning sign for Bournemouth.
With half an hour gone by, a poor clearance from the goalkeeper fell to Pugh, of whom played a one-two with Surman before cutting into the area. Both Stanislas and Defoe went for the ball from six yards out, however, it rolled out for a goal-kick. A glorious opportunity to test McGovern in goal.
Despite the missed opportunity, a couple of minutes later, Bournemouth were ahead. Left wing-back Rico fired the ball forward for Defoe who took a touch from his chest and skilfully passed to the onrushing Stanislas to his left. He progressed to the box under pressure from a defender, feinted and unleashed a beautiful curling effort over the defender and goalkeeper and into the roof of the net. 1-0 Bournemouth.
Norwich looked hungry for a goal before half-time as a through ball allowed their striker to strike the ball at Boruc who produces a magnificent save to parry the ball out to Cook, that hit his knee out for a corner – lucky from Cook, as it could have gone anywhere. The resulting corner led to a scare as the ball whistled across the face of the goal. Another effort from Norwich bounced off the post and a clearance off the line from Cook from the following corner.
The long-awaited half-time eventually came as Howe looked disappointed despite the lead.
Half-Time: Bournemouth 1-0 Norwich.
The intensity of the first-half died down with Francis making crucial blocks to deny Norwich shots on goal, as Ryan Fraser came on for the under-performing Ibe as the game passed 60 minutes. His involvement made an instant impact; both him and Pugh constantly cut in to produce opportunities but the Norwich defence stood firm, as Bournemouth pushed for a well-needed second goal.
Bournemouth were made to rue these missed chances as Norwich’s winger looped the ball over the top for Hernandez, who outmuscled Cook to slot past Boruc and give Norwich an expected goal and a leveller for the visiting side.
A goal that didn’t make the game level for long though. Following two successive corners from Rico, Stanislas found Pugh on the right-hand side for him to shoot, which was unfortunately blocked for the returning legend. The rebound falls gracefully for Cook, who puts his laces through the shot to hammer the ball into the net from 12 yards out. An unstoppable effort. Only 2 minutes and 40 seconds between both goals.
Despite the lead, Bournemouth pushed for another goal as Fraser and Pugh linked up well again for Wee Man to dance through the defence and avoid a sliding tackle to put in a sublime cross, which unfortunately doesn’t meet the head of any other Cherries player. One final attack from the home side started with Pugh on the right glancing past two pressing players and dipping a magnificent through ball over to the sprinting Wilson, which was collected by the goalkeeper. Only a few inches too far.
As an incomprehensible seven minutes was added to extra time, Norwich piled the pressure upon the Premier League side, and the final touch shook the home fans as Rhodes put a free header wide from six yards out. Had the target man scored, penalties would have decided the match, but Bournemouth held on to win.
Full Time: Bournemouth 2-1 Norwich.
Artur Boruc – 7: Produced some good saves to deny Norwich’s flurry of attacks, however, had bad distribution.
Simon Francis – 7: Some excellent blocks from the skipper and won most of his headers, but gave the ball away a few times.
Steve Cook – 8: Sponsor’s MOTM. Similar to Francis but scored the winner.
Charlie Daniels – 6: Not involved in the match that much, and I can understand why. Played in a position he’s not used to so there are contrasting duties but no mistakes made.
Marc Pugh – 9 – MOTM: Absolutely phenomenal tonight. Despite not being a wing-back he was on point. Cutting inside and producing some marvellous crosses was reminiscent of the Pugh we all love. Linked well with Fraser when he came on too. Thoroughly deserved a goal tonight (and nearly got an assist for Wilson late on) and danced through the defence with real talent. Was great both halves. Would have been a 10 if not for a few bad and missed headers.
Andrew Surman – 6: Thought he did okay tonight, made some good passes and started some attacking moves along the wing. Closed down well too.
Dan Gosling – 5: Didn’t have his mojo tonight. Not very creative and gave the ball away a few times in simple moves.
Diego Rico – 7: Very attacking and consistent in terms of quality of crossing. Did defend well too.
Jordon Ibe – 3: Awful. Was given the ball and most times did nothing with it except for passing it to the opposition or being tackled. Not involved whatsoever, with Pugh doing most of his work and showed no determination or passion. Should have come off far earlier.
Jermain Defoe – 7: Finally involved in a goal with his assist and thought he did well except for his early miss. Surprised when he was substituted.
Junior Stanislas – 8: A great goal tonight and deserved. Was quiet in the second half but was involved somewhat.
Ryan Fraser – 8: Made an instant impact as soon as he swapped for Ibe at the hour mark. Linked up well with Pugh despite both being relatively out of position. Made great crosses and passes.
Callum Wilson – 6: Okay but didn’t have much time to make an impact but pressed their defence well.
Jack Simpson – N/A: Swapped for the injured Francis late on but not enough time to make a judgement
Overall Team Rating – 5: Mixed feelings about the performance. Some players shone while others didn’t. Line-up did not help in terms of all three defenders perhaps a little tired from Saturday and that some were out of position. Did seem that Howe underestimated the opposition a little as well.
So progression to the Quarters for the second year in a row. As I mentioned it was as tough match against an in-form side considering both sides fielded their ‘reserve’ teams. Personally, Norwich were unlucky due to hitting the post a number of times and some good saves by Boruc denied them a victory.
Heard groans and read frustrations about the midfielders’ performances, with a lack of involvement and creativity present. I do agree, however, it must be put into consideration that we focus on the wings when attacking. It’s our philosophy. Of course, it doesn’t justify that the midfield can underperform without criticism. They were a little below par tonight. Compared to our first team centre midfield, there are some blatant comparisons that can be made, such as bravery.
Ibe was extremely frustrating tonight. His performances are often polarised, with them either being excellent or poor. This game was perhaps his worst. His issues in regard to spirit and determination need to be addressed quickly otherwise things could potentially turn out for the worst. He was lazy with the ball and constantly gave it away. Glad to see that Fraser replaced him though.
Moving from the bad to the good, Marc Pugh was excellent. Considering he cannot make the bench sometimes he has thoroughly justified his place to be in the 18. Similarly, Stanislas was great too, and it’ll be interesting as to whether or not they can be given some starts in the future.
Other than that, the game tonight was more based on individual performances than the entire team. Comparing our current Premier League form to our three fixtures in the Cup, you can see the contrasts in terms of togetherness. The team utilised for the Premier League seems more gelled and determined than the ones we see during Cup fixtures. Hopefully, this changes for the positive as we are a spirited side as Howe has mentioned before.
Not the best or worst outings tonight but a win is a win and glad to see the progression. Have to say well done to Norwich for being stubborn and giving us a real test! Burton at home maybe?