Written by Akshay Kulkarni (@ImpatientPedant)
AFC Bournemouth lost out at the death to Manchester United in a game of two halves at the Vitality Stadium.
It was yet another late goal at the Vitality that decided the contest – but this time, it was Bournemouth’s opponents who got it.
Substitute Marcus Rashford’s finish in stoppage time was probably merited after a great second half performance from United.
But Bournemouth should have buried the contest in the first half, after an early goal from Callum Wilson and a host of other chances. It is no exaggeration to say that the Cherries should have had three or four goals in the first period.
Anthony Martial’s equaliser, completely against the run of play then, changed the complexion of the match. In the second half, the Red Devils created far more chances, the last of which was Rashford’s decisive act.
Bournemouth probably deserved as much out of this match as United, but paid for their relative lack of threat in the second half. Cherries boss Eddie Howe was happy with his team’s effort, though the late goal will have hurt.
The result brings United level with Bournemouth on 20 points, but the Cherries’ goal difference is better and they remain in sixth.
The game started off with a tribute, not only due to Remembrance Sunday, but also to Leicester chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, whose death last weekend in a helicopter crash shook the football community. The players wore black armbands as a result.
The game started off well for the hosts, who created two chances within the first 10 minutes.
The first was Ryan Fraser’s, who was through on goal in the fifth minute, burning Chris Smalling with pace. But the Scotsman’s shot was close to United keeper David de Gea, who saved with his legs.
Junior Stanislas then had a chance, with a bouncing ball on the edge of the six-yard-area. His shot was into the chest of de Gea, and Wilson’s follow-up was scuffed wide in the tenth minute.
Wilson made amends for that from the resulting corner. The set piece was half-cleared by United, and Lewis Cook played the ball down the right for Stanislas. Bournemouth players were queuing up in the area for the delivery, and Wilson was the one with the vital touch.
There were suspicions of offside for the goal, but Bournemouth didn’t care. Their utter dominance after the goal put United on the back foot.
First came a chance for David Brooks. The Welshman’s header was just too high from Wilson’s cross in the 14th minute.
Then came a chance for Adam Smith, whose low curling shot had everyone holding their breath, including a static United defence. But, agonisingly for Bournemouth, it dribbled past De Gea’s far post.
Stanislas had two good shots from the edge of the area saved by De Gea, without whom United would probably have been done and dusted in the first 30 minutes.
Bournemouth also had a great shout for a penalty, when David Brooks went down under Luke Shaw’s challenge in the 26th minute. The referee Paul Tierney was unmoved, but replays showed Shaw was riding his luck with the tackle.
A lull in play on the half hour mark, after Fraser went down under Pogba’s challenge, helped United slow Bournemouth’s rampant pace. The team looked out of ideas until then.
Five minutes later, the Red Devils had their equaliser. It was completely against the run of play. Alexis Sanchez, who had been jeered for his heavy touches until then, managed to get free on the right of the box. His low cross found Martial and the Frenchman finished well past Begovic.
The rest of the half was relatively muted in comparison to the first half hour.
Bournemouth did have another chance, with Fraser’s shot hitting the side netting in the 41st after a De Gea save. Stanislas also had a freekick stopped by the jumping United wall, and his follow up was well wide.
Both teams headed down the tunnel at half-time in varying moods. United were lucky to not be three behind, and Bournemouth were ruing the preventable equaliser after their initial flurry.
The second half was very different for both teams.
Substitutions change the game
The half started off with United on the front foot, though the first real chance was Bournemouth’s.
David Brooks was found by Fraser in the six-yard-box five minutes in. Though the cross was behind him, the Welshman cheekily attempted to backheel it into the goal. De Gea was scrambling, but he managed to save.
United then started to come into the game. Their first chance was through Shaw, who was through on goal after some great interplay down the left. The full back’s shot was saved well by an advancing Begovic.
Rashford and Ander Herrera then came on for Fred and Juan Mata, and this substitution was ultimately decisive for United.
The first chance they created after the substitution was for Sanchez, who got a head to Chris Smalling’s knock-down after a set piece in the 60th minute. The Chilean’s header was tipped over by an alert Begovic.
The resulting corner saw a great chance for Herrera, whose driven shot from the edge of the area flew just wide of the post.
United’s set pieces, as well as balls over the top, seemed to cause a lot of confusion in the Bournemouth defence. They played down the left often, with Martial running at Simon Francis.
This led to many chances. Another sharp set piece from Young clipped the crossbar in the 64th with Begovic beaten. Rashford, and then Pogba, then missed follow-ups, with Bournemouth clearing off the line twice.
Herrera then had another shot from the edge of the area which flew wide, and Rashford almost beat Ake for pace moments later. If the first half was Bournemouth’s, it was all United in the second.
David Brooks was probably Bournemouth’s best threat in the second half. He tried to audaciously chip De Gea from outside the area in the 70th minute, and a fizzing shot 10 minutes later was saved well by the Spaniard at his near post. But the rest of the Cherries, bar the calm Ake, seemed to be under the cosh somewhat.
Substitute Jesse Lingard then had a huge chance in the 89th, after some first-touch interplay with Rashford. Again, though, Begovic did well to save it with his legs.
Two minutes later, though, United finally capped off the afternoon with a goal their dominant second half deserved.
It was once again down the left, with Paul Pogba’s cross causing confusion in the Bournemouth defence. The ball fell to Smith, who cleared it straight into Rashford. The Englishman was given time and put it past Begovic, to the delight of the travelling supporters. Rashford was even booked for celebrating with the away end.
Bournemouth were shocked and couldn’t manage a clear chance during the rest of stoppage time. The full-time whistle was almost drowned out by the jubilant United supporters.
Mourinho’s changes probably won his side the match, but the Red Devils manager will know there is still a huge cliff to scale for his faltering United team.
On the other side, it was a tough blow to take for the Cherries after their flying first half performance. Considering the Cherries have Man City and Arsenal upcoming, Eddie Howe will probably try and drill down on the positive first half performance.
The Cherries next travel to struggling Newcastle on the 10th, while United have a midweek Champions League clash against Juventus.