AFC Bournemouth did little to help their survival bid on Saturday, as they returned to Premier League action in a 2-0 defeat to Crystal Palace.
A lackluster performance from Eddie Howe’s men saw the home side rarely threaten the away goal during the 90 minutes.
Palace started the game impressively, with dangerman Wilfried Zaha looking sharp down the left wing.
The Ivorian blasted an early effort over the bar before being fouled by David Brooks on the edge of the Bournemouth penalty area.
Brooks was featuring for the Cherries for the first time all season after being out for 14 months with an ankle injury, and he may have regretted his foul on 11 minutes.
Palace captain Luka Milivojevic is used to scoring from the spot for the Eagles, but the Serb struck an exquisite free kick which Aaron Ramsdale’s fingertips could not stop on its way into the top corner of his net.
The visitors, who went into lockdown having won their three previous matches 1-0, doubled their lead eleven minutes later.
Bournemouth’s defence looked static as Zaha found Patrick Van Aanholt out on the left, who fired a cross virtually onto the penalty spot where forward Jordan Ayew stayed cool to bury his first time shot into the bottom left corner.
It is the Ghanian’s ninth goal of the season, who is the away side’s top scorer by a comfortable lead of six.
From the moment the second goal went in there was a feeling the game was already lost for the home side.
Following the national lockdown that suspended the league for three months, it now seemed as if Palace Keeper Vicente Guaita’s goal was in lockdown, as shots from Josh King and Jefferson Lerma were blasted high and wide away from it.
Hopes of survival may have taken a blow early on in the second half for Bournemouth, as King limped off the pitch after being caught by a heavy challenge from former Chelsea captain Gary Cahill.
Palace appeared happy to sit back and control the game in the second 45, allowing the hosts to control possession but without posing any sort of threat on goal.
Defender Nathan Ake had the hosts’ only dangerous chance of the game past the hour mark, but he only managed to send his close range header into the safe hands of Guaita.
Now sitting in ninth, sandwiched between Tottenham and Arsenal, Roy Hodgson’s Palace may consider themselves to have an outside shot at a Europa League qualifying space.
Cherries manager Eddie Howe will be frustrated to have seen an underwhelming return from his men at the Vitality, where they have picked up 17 points of their 27 this season.
If the Cherries are going to stay in the Premier League for a fifth consecutive season, their performances are going to have to improve drastically.
Things don’t get easier for them still having four of the top six to play in their remaining eight games.
The Cherries travel to Wolves on Wednesday night in their first away tie since the 2-1 loss to Liverpool over 100 days ago.