by Dan Davis (@dan_davis20)
Junior Stanislas’ late free kick fired Bournemouth to a 2-1 victory over rock-bottom side West Bromwich Albion, moving the Cherries eight points clear of the relegation zone whilst likely condemning their opponents to relegation.
The Baggies had taken the lead a minute after half time through Jay Rodriguez’s close range strike, and largely had control over the game for 75 minutes. But minutes later, Jordon Ibe crashed home a long range effort that evaded Ben Foster for the equaliser, before Stanislas’ wicked set piece on the verge of 90 minutes rounded off an intriguing encounter at Vitality Stadium.
Cherries boss Eddie Howe made two changes to the side that started the heavy 4-1 defeat to Tottenham last weekend. Josh King returned after shaking off a neck injury that saw him among the substitutes for the clash with Spurs, while Jordon Ibe also started for the first time since the Cherries’ humbling at Huddersfield.
Lewis Cook retained his place from the off, just days after earning his second England senior call up for upcoming friendlies against the Netherlands and Italy, whilst Harry Arter once again missed out entirely.
The visitors recalled captain Jonny Evans, Claudio Yacob and Rodriguez, with Matt Phillips, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Oliver Burke all dropping out.
A slow start from the Cherries allowed West Brom to take control of proceedings, with the Baggies fashioning the best of the early opportunities – Allan Nyom’s delivery narrowly evading Salomon Rondon at the back post. The Venezuelan was provided with another opening after ten minutes, but could only glance a header into the grateful palms of Asmir Begovic.
The home side finally sprung to life in the 13th minute, when Dan Gosling tamely arched a header at Foster after King’s delivery from the byline.
But West Brom continued to pose the greater danger and tested Begovic once again after Rodriguez let fly from 25 yards.
A difficult start to the afternoon for the Cherries continued, when skipper Simon Francis had to be replaced by Daniels. The substitute full back was quickly into the action, and drilled an effort towards goal from distance which had Foster plunging to his right to make the save.
Ahmed Hegazi, the lone goalscorer in the reverse fixture at the Hawthorns in August, then crossed into the penalty area and Rondon’s flicked header saw Begovic nervously claw away after a potentially lethal bounce.
The home side’s attacking forays were fleeting and wasteful, summed up by Stanislas’ poor decision to jink inside the penalty area after being released by King. The Norwegian was involved again after seemingly being felled inside the box after Hegazi’s challenge, but referee Graham Scott dismissed the appeals.
One final chance before the interval fell the Cherries’ way, after Stanislas’ burst down the touchline was prematurely halted by Evans’ challenge. The former Burnley wide-man bent the resulting set piece over the wall, but Foster saved comfortably at the foot of his post.
The second period began at a frantic pace, as both sides pushed for an early opener. Rondon’s venomous effort was superbly smothered inside the box by Steve Cook, before Stanislas’ brief opening at the other end was expertly marshalled by Craig Dawson.
But just two minutes later, the visitors struck first. Kieran Gibbs dug out a cross from the touchline into the six-yard box which was knocked down by Rondon for Rodriguez, the ex-Southampton forward sweeping home from close range.
Howe’s dreary afternoon took another turn for the worst after 55 minutes, with Adam Smith noticeably struggling with a knee problem and having to be replaced. Lys Mousset was introduced in a surprising offensive switch with Ibe dropping into the vacant full-back role.
It wasn’t until the 73th minute that the Cherries finally lifted the sullen Vitality crowd, with the bottom-placed side dictating proceedings on the south coast. Yacob brought down King 25 yards from goal, and Stanislas agonisingly bent the free-kick onto the roof of the net.
Baggies’ boss Alan Pardew made an offensive change in the final quarter, switching to a four man defence as Evans made way for Matt Phillips. It would be the substitute who invited Ibe to cut infield, with the Cherries duly punishing with a much-needed equaliser.
The London-born winger drifted centrally after dancing down the touchline, before glancing up and hammering a strike towards goal from 25 yards. The effort seemed to bend slightly around Hegazi, and bounced in front of the sprawling Foster before nestling into the back of the net.
The Cherries pressed for another winning goal, having picked up 16 points from losing positions in England’s top flight this season. With two minutes to play before stoppage time, it arrived in style.
Dawson’s poorly-timed challenge on King saw referee Scott award a free kick narrowly outside the penalty area. Stanislas had come close twice from similar positions and finally netted with his third attempt, a curling effort that whistled past Foster into the top corner, sparking scenes of jubilation around the stadium as Bournemouth appeared to edge closer to another campaign of Premier League football.
There was still time in the additional seven minutes for West Brom to come close to rescuing a point at the death, but Phillips’ goal bound header was stabbed off the line by Daniels before the Cherries scrambled clear, wrapping up another crucial comeback to move eight points clear of the drop zone.
Bournemouth: Begovic, Francis (Daniels), Cook, Ake, Smith (Mousset), Ibe, L. Cook, Gosling, Stanislas, King, Wilson (Defoe)
Unused subs: Boruc, Surman, Pugh, Fraser
West Brom: Foster, Nyom, Evans (Phillips), Hegazi, Dawson, Gibbs, Yacob, Livermore, Brunt (Field), Rodriguez (Robson-Kanu), Rondon
Unused subs: Myhill, McClean, Burke, Krychowiak
Referee: Graham Scott