AFC Bournemouth failed to make their chances count as they were comfortably beaten 2-0 by Manchester United on Wednesday night.
The goals came from Chris Smalling and Romelu Lukaku, as the Red Devils bounced back from a shock defeat at West Brom last weekend. The Cherries, on the other hand, are now firmly in a rut. They have only one win in their last nine games, and are still not mathematically safe from relegation.
Bournemouth made two changes to the side that lost against Liverpool. Jermain Defoe and Dan Gosling dropped out in favour of Josh King and Andrew Surman. United manager Jose Mourinho, on the other hand, rang the changes for this trip to the South Coast, with only four of his previous XI starting against the Cherries. There was a start for much-maligned Marouane Fellaini in midfield, and top scorer Lukaku was benched.
The match started tentatively from both sides, with neither side really getting into it initially.
The first chance came to Jordon Ibe for Bournemouth, after good work from Callum Wilson on the left. His shot flew past David De Gea’s right-hand post. Another chance soon came to Scotsman Ryan Fraser, who was also playing on the left. He beat Matteo Darmian for sheer pace before seeing his shot deflected wide in the 24th minute.
A few minutes later, United striker Marcus Rashford won the ball off Nathan Ake. The home fans bayed for a foul, but it was not forthcoming from referee Graham Scott. The English striker ran into the box and forced a good save from Asmir Begovic.
From the resulting corner, the visitors took the lead. The ball was played out to Ander Herrera, who delicately slipped in Jesse Lingard. His inviting ball across goal was tapped home by Smalling in the 28th minute. It was an opportune goal from the England centre-back, who has scored three in his last six appearances for United.
Bournemouth looked to respond immediately. Fraser had a grounded shot comfortably saved by De Gea two minutes after the goal. On the stroke of half-time, Bournemouth had probably their best chance with ex-United forward King. The Norwegian picked up the ball on the right-side of the box and struck it firmly at De Gea. It was not a difficult save, but the Spaniard parried effectively.
After the break, Bournemouth tried to press once again. A dangerous ball across the face of goal flew just past Wilson in the 55th. The Cherries forward claimed a penalty, but the ref was unmoved once again. Looking at the replays, the Bournemouth faithful can feel aggrieved. Luke Shaw was very lucky not to concede the penalty.
Scott made a number of decisions which the home fans did not like. Another was a freekick on the edge of the area, which was won by Paul Pogba. The home fans did not like the somewhat theatrical fall of the Frenchman, and chants of ‘Cheat!’ resounded across the ground. The resulting freekick, however, was smashed into the wall by substitute Lukaku.
A few minutes later, Lukaku had a decisive impact. Pogba was involved again, as he galloped with the ball on a United counter. His pass through to the Belgian was perfect, and Lukaku made no mistake, lofting the ball past Begovic.
Bournemouth’s response to this goal was more muted than the first. Their only notable chance afterwards was a rising shot from sub Lys Mousset, which didn’t trouble De Gea at all.
United finished off the rest of the match professionally. Their defence dealt well with the pacey Cherries front-line, and even Defoe could not affect the result.
The result leaves Bournemouth 11th with three matches left to play. Their next match is a South Coast derby against relegation-threatened Southampton, which promises to be a crucial fixture for both teams. United remain 2nd and face Tottenham next in the FA Cup.