Written by Courtney Hill (@cjhsport)
AFC Bournemouth salvaged a point away to Southampton this afternoon in a six-goal thriller.
Despite being behind twice to Saints, the Cherries kept fighting, getting their equaliser in the 86th minute.
Electrifying, end-t0-end and goals galore – a perfect display of why the Premier League can be so exciting for fans.
Bournemouth took on Southampton this afternoon in a potentially crucial game for the Saints as they continued to fight relegation.
Bettering Cardiff’s result this weekend would see them secure their place in the Premier League for next season.
Meanwhile, Bournemouth were looking for their first win at the St Mary’s Stadium, along with their first win against Southampton in three years.
Both sides made two changes apiece coming into the game. Bournemouth started with a back five as Jack Simpson and Nathaniel Clyne returned to the starting XI, replacing Junior Stanislas and Ryan Fraser – the latter amidst rumours of a calf injury.
Meanwhile, for the hosts, Danny Ings and Yan Valery came in to replace Maya Yoshida and Stuart Armstrong.
Quick out the blocks
Saints came out firing with an electric start to the game – their first chance coming just two minutes in.
After exchanging passes up the pitch, Ings played in Nathan Redmond who had his effort blocked by Nathan Ake.
The resulting corner almost wound up in the net as the pressure continued, but Jefferson Lerma’s last-ditch block prevents it from going in.
As Premier League survival beckoned, Southampton continued to pile on Bournemouth – who struggled to get a grasp of the game.
Redmond found himself through on goal yet again but was only met by Boruc, who parried his effort wide.
The breakthrough eventually came for Saints two minutes later when Redmond’s ball into the box found Shane Long – the latter curling home comfortably.
Despite having the lead and looking composed on the ball, Saints continued to fly forward in search of a second goal. Redmond nearly delivered that but his effort flew way over Boruc’s goal.
And then, almost from nowhere, Bournemouth found themselves level after 20 minutes.
A blistering counter-attack from Josh King put in Callum Wilson, who played it first time to Ryan Gosling. The midfielder then fired it past Gunn to get the Cherries back into the game.
Not only was it Bournemouth’s first shot of the game, but it was their first attack too. Switched off at the back, the Cherries could’ve found themselves immediately behind again just minutes later.
After a stray ball landed at his feet, Long was gifted with two chances to restore Saints’ lead, but he found himself denied by both Boruc and the post.
Despite end-to-end thereafter, it was Bournemouth who found themselves in front after 32 minutes.
A corner fell to Brooks on the outside of the box. The Welshman’s wicked effort could only be deflected by Gunn into the path of Wilson, who made no mistake from a few yards out.
After soaking up 20 minutes worth of pressure from Saints, Bournemouth were now in cruise control of the game.
Perhaps thanks to an earlier substitution with Fraser replacing Mepham, Bournemouth looked a lot more assured going forward.
A frantic half then came to an end with referee Graham Scott giving out a third yellow of the game – Gosling, Long and Romeu all picked up cautions.
Fighting until the end
Saints once again came out fighting for the start of the second half. Their corner fell to Ryan Bertrand on the edge of the area but his effort flew just over the crossbar.
Once again, Southampton kept knocking. This time it was excellent feet from Ings who could only pass to Long.
Long then squared it to Redmond but the Englishman’s skewed effort went high and wide.
With all these chances gone begging for Saints, they finally found a way through to level up the scoring.
It was James Ward-Prowse who found the equaliser. The midfielder buried the ball well beyond Boruc to make it 2-2. Saints’ refusal to go down without a fight was evident and on display at St Mary’s.
Their determination and resilience was awarded when Matt Targett fired them back ahead in the 66th minute.
Valery’s looping ball across goal was met by the super-sub Matt Targett at the far post. His header back across goal evaded Boruc and gave Saints the lead.
Bournemouth’s final substitution came in the 72nd minute as Solanke replaced Clyne – a final throw of the dice from Eddie Howe. The game was end-to-end, with Southampton looking the likelier to go on and finish the game.
But, Bournemouth proved yet again all they needed was one chance. King driving forward played in Fraser who fizzed a ball across goal where Wilson bundled home in the 86th minute.
With just four minutes left on the clock, Bournemouth salvaged a point and Southampton’s fate was left in the hands of the Cardiff result.
The conclusion of this six-goal thriller was met with the news that Fulham had beaten Cardiff, meaning Southampton live to fight another year in the Premier League. The news was met with an eruption from Saints fans.
Meanwhile, the Cherries will be travelling back to Bournemouth with a point under their belt having come from behind twice to give Saints a nervy few post-match minutes.
It’s now just two games until the end of the season.