By Akshay Kulkarni (@ImpatientPedant)
AFC Bournemouth left it late once again to triumph against Crystal Palace, in a match that ended as dramatically as it started.
Substitute Junior Stanislas was the hero as he struck home an 87th minute penalty, conceded after a stray elbow from Mamadou Sakho struck summer signing Jefferson Lerma.
The South Londoner’s had worked their way back into the match after an early setback in the form of David Brooks’s first Premier League goal in the 5th minute.
Patrick van Aanholt’s equaliser in the second half looked to be the last one for the night, but late pressure from the Cherries told, and Stanislas finished the game off after a raft of chances went begging.
It was another late finish under the lights of the Vitality Stadium after a similarly dramatic 3-2 win against Blackburn Rovers in midweek.
It seemed like last week’s 4-0 mauling away from Burnley was a mere blip in the Cherries’ fortunes.
Eddie Howe made a couple of changes to the Bournemouth lineup from that defeat, with Lewis Cook and Simon Francis coming in. Cook’s deployment in central midfield alongside Lerma meant it was another changed midfield for the Cherries, seemingly yet to rely on a consistent first XI.
Fittingly then, it was David Brooks, the new signing that has been ever present this season, that opened the scoring in the 5th minute.
The Welshman’s finish was a peach. After receiving the ball from Callum Wilson on the edge of the box, his first-time effort went in sweetly after striking the underside of the bar. He becomes Bournemouth’s youngest ever goalscorer in the Premier League with that effort, at 21 years and 84 days.
The early goal clearly rattled Crystal Palace, and the remainder of the first half saw numerous attempts at the Bournemouth goal. But Roy Hodgson’s failed to find a killer pass, despite numerous set-pieces around the box.
Whether it was Luka Milivojevic or Max Meyer’s delivery, it was always dealt with effectively by Bournemouth’s central pairing of Nathan Ake and Steve Cook. Simon Francis and Adam Smith, too, were effective at nullifying Palace’s wing threat of Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend.
Early in the second half, Zaha began to drift centrally to influence proceedings more than he did in the first half. The change worked as the Ivorian slipped in Patrick van Aanholt in the 55th minute, who steadied himself and fired into the top corner.
Asmir Begovic managed to get a finger to it, but the shot was too powerful. However, replays showed the Dutchman was offside when he received the ball, and Howe cut a frustrated figure on the near side.
Howe then made a tactical switch, with the goalscorer Brooks replaced by central midfielder Dan Gosling. This shifted the Cherries into a 4-1-4-1 formation, with Wilson the clear focal point.
The switch seemed to prove dividends immediately, with Wilson missing a gilt-edged opportunity in the 61st minute. A Francis cross was headed down by Josh King, but Wilson took it too hastily and ended up firing it far over the goal.
The forward was a constant threat running in behind, but the matchwinner against Blackburn last Tuesday night, seemed to leave his shooting boots behind. He had another golden chance in the 83rd minute after a frantic break led by Ryan Fraser, but his shot landed straight at a diving Hennessey.
A minute later, the Cherries had another glorious chance to regain the lead, but substitute Dan Gosling’s glancing header was parried away after a good cross from the right.
The Eagles were hardly quiet, but they never had the clearest sight of goal. A few hopeful shots from Townsend and Meyer were the only chances they conjured up after van Aanholt’s goal. Palace, it seemed, would go back to South London with a point.
But then came the crucial moment. Substitute Alexander Sorloth, brought on for the ineffective Jordan Ayew, conceded a freekick on Jefferson Lerma on the near side. After Fraser put the ball in, referee Mike Dean spotted an elbow by Sakho on Lerma off the ball. It was a deserved penalty and, on the balance of it, Bournemouth deserved this last golden chance.
Stanislas, who had barely had a touch of the ball as a substitute, was the calmest man on the South Coast as he stroked home cleanly down the middle in the 87th minute, past a despairing Wayne Hennessey.
The Vitality erupted after yet another late finish from the renowned comeback kings, while Palace were left shell-shocked. They will still be searching for their 100th win in the top flight while their Dorset counterparts celebrate their best-ever start to life up there.
The win moves Bournemouth up to 7th, and leaves Palace at 13th. Bournemouth’s next match is against Watford on October 6th at Vicarage Road, while Palace face newly-promoted Wolves.