3 December 2019
Crystal Palace 1 AFC Bournemouth 0
For the 1000+ cherries fans who made the arduous journey across London in the rush hour, there was an air of optimism for the game against Crystal Palace. Both teams needed the win to help avoid the spectre of a future relegation battle. Palace went into the match off the back of a 2-0 away win at Burnley. Bournemouth however were still looking for their first away win since overcoming their south coast rivals, Southampton, back in September.
Before last night’s game, Crystal Palace had scored just 5 goals in their last seven homes games, with only bottom of the table Watford having scored fewer. Certainly manager Eddie Howe would have fancied the cherries chances of reversing their steady drop down the premier league table, especially after seeing positive signs during the teams last away outing to Tottenham.
The early signs looked good for Howe with the cherries pressing from the off and putting the hosts under pressure. Palace succumbed to the pressure and lost defender Mamadou Sakho after just 19 minutes for an ill-timed and dangerous tackle on Adam Smith. Sakho launched himself with studs exposed at the Bournemouth defender, catching Smith at knee height and felling him in front of the home dugout. Referee Anthony Taylor, aided by VAR had no doubt and displayed an instant red which saw Sakho walk, much to the displeasure of the Selhurst Park faithful.
Cherries tails were up against 10 man Palace and they piled on the pressure for the remainder of the first half. Despite the pressure there were no goals to show for the effort and Palace keeper Guaita had little to contend with. The Eagles defence dug in and rebuffed the cherries attacks forcing a frustrated Bournemouth to retreat and regroup on several ocassions.
The second half saw Crystal Palace set themselves up differently, with an emphasis on defence rather than attack. Palace sat deep in their own half waiting for the inevitable onslaught that the 11 man Bournemouth team would deliver. But the onslaught never came and the cherries failed to capitalise on their one man advantage.
With the half beginning to show all the hallmarks of 0-0 draw, Cherries continued to push for the elusive goal and perhaps in an act of desperation Howe made a puzzling double substitution in the 64th minute. Bournemouth’s gaffa took off left-back Rico and moved natural right-back Smith into the left back position. Rico was replaced by Simon Francis who slotted into the vacant right back position created by Smith.
The second substitution saw playmaker Groeneveld Danjuma taken off in favour of Ryan Fraser. Danjuma had been posing a serious threat to the Palace defence with his unpredictable runs and looked by far the player who might be able to create that chance for Bournemouth’s frustrated strikers. In contrast Fraser, who has been out of sorts since speculation about his future began in pre-season, failed to make the desired impact and his usual pinpoint passing which has made him a fans favourite deserted him.
Smith didn’t look as comfortable at left back and an ageing Simon Francis struggled with the pace of Zaha. The Cherries defence which had previously looked capable now looked vulnerable and shakey as Palace sensed a new-found opportunity. The rapid and pacy Zaha was let out of his box and began causing problems.
Then in the 76th minute the inevitable happened. Jeffry Schlupp streaked out of the Palace half after another bungled Bournemouth attack, sprinting around the increasingly slow Francis and an inexperienced Mepham like a springbok. He made the job look easy as he slotted the ball under keeper Ramsdale who should have done better.
Despite having 69% possession, 9 corners, 5 shots on target and an extra man on the pitch, Cherries failed to make it count and Howe must be wondering what the team has to do to reverse a 4 game losing streak.
With strikers Callum Wilson and £19 million pound signing Dominic Solanke failing to find the net once again despite some gilt edged chances, the Bournemouth boss will have to go back to the drawing board to find that elusive win.
Harry Wilson looked dangerous as did Lewis Cook when he came on for Billing in the 82nd minute but the famous attacking and expansive play that has marked Howes era at Bournemouth seemed to be lacking. Howe’s tactics were questionable, particularly the substitutions which resulted in the Cherries looking stilted and clumsy and ultimately paying the price.
Bournemouth’s next game is against Liverpool at Dean Court with Howe and co having to be on top of their game to snatch anything from the in-form league leaders.