Written by Neil Dawson
King downsizes Palace
Bournemouth’s ability to come back is now moving beyond notable and heading towards remarkable. It’s now seven out of the last eight home games when all seemed lost, yet points arrived.
Without it, the team would be firmly sat in the relegation zone. Once again it was the subs that made the difference with delightful goalscoring cameos from King and Mousset.
Eddie is rapidly running out of players and with Ibe poorly, Stan out for some time and King feeling a hamstring in came Pugh, Francis and Defoe to freshen the ranks. Intriguingly Kyle Taylor got the second central midfield subs berth ahead of Harry Arter.
The home team started like a side that didn’t want to come-back but had selected squandering chance mode. Only 30 seconds were on the clock when Daniels fantastic curved low cross fell to Wilson six yards out but he couldn’t compose and lifted the ball wide. This clearly affected his confidence as he went on to snatch at some other gilt-edged chances that could have changed the end result.
Gosling was next heading wide when it looked easier to score but at least he could say he set up the move by winning the ball well in the first place. Bournemouth were by far and away the more dominant force in the first half but again lacked that link between the front two/four and the rest of the team. Time and time again everyone turned and ran when the midfield had the ball and nobody dropped to add another dimension. As a result, many moves broke down by over-playing in midfield (Cook and Pugh) or poor first touch (Gosling). Meanwhile, Defoe and Wilson were increasingly isolated.
The game started to get tetchy as well – Cabaye and the little ray of happiness that is Zaha reacting angrily to Cook’s menace. With Fraser and Francis doubling on dangerman Zaha he was very quiet in the first half and the lack of any forwards on the pitch meant Palace were pretty impotent.
The home team galvanised before the break and Wilson volleyed over Fraser’s cross, shanked a great run and pass from Defoe wide and headed Francis’s cross in an eventful but fruitless period for the Cherries top scorer. Defoe was also well blocked at the near post as he pulled the trigger.
HT Bournemouth 0 Palace 0
The second half saw a soporific start, something of a pattern when you look back at recent games and a Palace goal. Defoe clipped Cabaye’s ankles on the edge of the box and MILIVOJEVIC curled a peach of a 25 yard free-kick past Begovic.
Bournemouth switched to ‘comeback mode’ and hit the accelerator. Hennessey saved well from Pugh’s curler but topped it with an outstanding stop when Lewis Cook let fly from distance. The home team were camped out in Palace’s half but nearly suffered when Zaha broke from a set piece and brilliantly found the rampaging Van Aanholt but Begovic blocked brilliantly from his one on one.
Hodgson had cleverly (there are three words I never thought I’d say) moved Zaha centrally to escape the doubling up and he caused havoc for 45 minutes. Again the home team were indebted to a brilliant Begovic stop when the cut in and hammered towards the corner.
Eddie did his normal swap, King arrived as a winger for Pugh, Mousset came on to sit in the number ten role and Wilson was withdrawn. The effect was immediate with both much more flexible and livelier than the players they replaced. When Fraser cut into the box and laid the ball back to the edge of the box MOUSSET’S finish was imperious – a curling low thunderbolt into the bottom corner that was taken with the nonchalance of a training ground exercise.
The game then became very entertaining, Palace busting a gut and Bournemouth with too many forwards on the pitch meant it resembled a basketball game more than football. Unfortunately, the lead only lasted ten minutes and predictably it was ZAHA who tuned three players inside out and with everyone holding off him in fear hammered a dive that cruelly deflected past Begovic to restore the visitors lead.
There were always more goals in the game though – Begovic making two more stunning stops to make sure it wasn’t Palace that got them… which set up the final push. A couple of corners arrived and from the last one Fraser bent it in, the ball broke off Cook and KING pounced at the far post to toe-poke under a flying Hennessey. 89 minutes were on the clock – quite early to get a defining goal by Bournemouth’s recent standards but neither team could make the most of the four left!
FT Bournemouth 2 Palace 2
Begovic 9 – Outstanding display of crucial saves and good clean takes.
Francis 7 – Good movement, always involved. Held up Zaha first half.
Cook 7 – Normal powerhouse display and watchful interceptions.
Ake 7 – Characteristic Intelligent display with nobody to mark.
Daniels 7 – Good job on Townsend and lively going forwards.
Fraser 8 – Very leg-sapping buzzing at both ends.
Cook 6 – Stroked it around well but a little over-ran 2nd half.
Gosling 6 – Battled hard but quality and pace was an issue today
Pugh 6 – Some vintage Pugh bits but some average ones too.
Wilson 5 – Worked hard but really needs a goal as low ebb.
Defoe 6 – Some cleverness but team again don’t really get him.
(Mousset 7, King 7 – Lively, pacy, direct – both of them).
MOM – That’s the first ‘Boruc at his best’ performance we have seen from Asmir. His normal solidness but some spectacular goal stopping thrown in. Edges is ahead of a lung-busting Fraser performance for me.
A cracking afternoon’s entertainment, particularly the second half. Again our team demonstrated their incredible spirit and resolve never to lose. Since the end of November only Spurs, Liverpool, Man City, Man Utd and……errr…….Huddersfield have taken three points against us. And that’s a run of 14 games with 2 defeats.
I guess it doesn’t matter how you get results but perfectionist Eddie will no doubt spend his summer pondering how his team find themselves continually coming back into matches. The benefit of this is you take euphoria into the next game of course which has been the story of 2018. We would have had the same points if we had gone in front then let the other team back in but it wouldn’t have felt nearly as good. It’s an odd game football.
I haven’t changed my dull and repetitive view on our formation as being the reason behind this. I won’t bore you all again with the negatives as it’s been done to death so let’s concentrate on the positive. Look what happens when you play a player who can fulfil the number ten role as Lys Mousset shows when he arrives. He has the potential to be that Yann Kermorgant figure we have lacked since his departure. He links play, he is strong when it is played up and can turn and he arrives late to finish pull backs. The side look different. Not because he is particularly a better player than Wilson, King or Defoe – as yet he isn’t. What he is……..is the player we need if we are going to insist on playing 4-4-2. It looked better today as well because we had wide midfielders as opposed to all-out wingers.
That’s Eddie’s task for the summer. He has a squad suited to 4-3-3 or 3-4-3 but he likes two central forwards. Mousset could hold that key until August – whoever he partners out of King, Defoe and Wilson will always head straight to goal when the midfield have the ball. Crack that and we might not need to come-back! We are also behind the last two season’s on points which is a sign that in reality we have gone backwards a bit this year performance wise.
Two tough tests to come so another vital point – then – can we finish the year off in style by relegating Southampton and beating Swansea?