AFC Bournemouth and Southampton played out a dull goalless draw in the much-hyped South Coast derby.
Bournemouth played an unchanged XI, while Mark Hughes made three changes to his Southampton side. Charlie Austin came on to partner Danny Ings, whose career started at Dean Court.
The game was a slow burner, to say the least. The last 10 minutes were probably the best period, with multiple chances at either end.
The best chance of the match was one of the last actions of the game, with a right-wing cross from Nathan Redmond finding substitute Manolo Gabbiadini in the 94th minute. The Italian’s header looped agonisingly high for the Saints.
Gabbiadini’s header was one of multiple chances for the visitors. For example, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg had many volleys and half-volleys from the edge of the box which were on target for Southampton. Cherries keeper Asmir Begovic had to tip over one of his more dangerous efforts over the bar in the 69th minute.
The hosts were poor and were probably suffering the consequences of the international break. Star men David Brooks and Ryan Fraser were invisible for large portions of the match. Nathan Ake and midfielder Jefferson Lerma were probably their best performers, which says a lot about a side praised for its attacking prowess.
Ake had Bournemouth’s best chance from a corner, but his powerful header was straight at Alex McCarthy. Bournemouth need to click into gear soon, since their upcoming run features Manchester United, Manchester City, and Arsenal back-to-back.
On the back of this performance, Eddie Howe might be worried heading into those fixtures.
The game started off frantically for his side, with Adam Smith scuffing a shot past the post in the first minute of the match. Brooks then had a very good opportunity to get his third consecutive goal, but his attempted curler flew past McCarthy’s post in the 13th minute.
After that, the game settled down considerably. It seemed like both sides were playing for a stalemate. Bournemouth attempted to get Josh King and Callum Wilson running at the centre backs by playing long balls. However, the giant pair of Jack Stephens and Wesley Hoedt repelled them at almost every opportunity.
Saints, on the other hand, were mostly trying to play their strikers in with through balls. Nathan Redmond was at the heart of their moves, but Nathan Ake was always alert to the danger for Bournemouth. The two sides seemingly cancelled each other out from the beginning.
In the 35th minute, a chipped through ball from Hojbjerg almost let in Austin. The striker managed to get the ball round Begovic, but his touch let him down and jeers rang around the Vitality. That was the extent of the action for the first half.
Bournemouth seemed to start the second half well too. Some quick interplay led to a cross from Jefferson Lerma, but King failed to get his header on target immediately after the restart.
The Norwegian missed another presentable opportunity in the 63rd, after good work from substitute Junior Stanislas. A Wilson ball found King in space in the 6-yard-box, but he scuffed his shot past the post.
Hojbjerg than struck a wicked volley after a clearance in the 69th minute, showing great technique to chest it down and smack a dipping shot. Begovic did well to palm it over the bar.
Ake then had Bournemouth’s best chance of the match in the 76th, with a header from a corner. Though it was powerful, and some Bournemouth fans were off their feet, it was too central, and McCarthy was relieved to collect.
Mark Hughes then changed out his strike pair, with Shane Long and Gabbiadini coming on for the final 10 minutes. This was probably when the match really kicked into gear, with Saints and Bournemouth missing many opportunities.
Long made an immediate impact, almost capitalising on a Begovic mistake in the 83rd minute. His shot was saved by the Bosnian. He then almost ran through after being played through by Hojbjerg.
Lerma then had a header saved in the 88th minute, after a flurry of freekicks around the Southampton box.
Finally, though, came the chance of the match. Redmond, who had been busy all game, managed to produce a peach of a cross for Gabbiadini, who had space and time. Sadly for him and Southampton, the header was just too high. Bournemouth were clearly relieved with this let-off.
Both Bournemouth and Southampton can be happy with a point, but for different reasons. The Cherries, clearly, were out of sorts and were probably lucky to not go behind at the death. Eddie Howe needs to get some momentum back for his side to weather the upcoming storm.
Saints, on the other hand, gained their first points since September and can be pleased with their performance. The defence especially dealt well with one of the Premier League’s paciest attacks, and they created enough chances to worry Bournemouth.
It may have been hyped up, but this derby seems to never have the intensity to truly become a classic fixture. Hopefully the next fixture turns out to be better.
Bournemouth’s next match is in the League Cup, hosting Championship side Norwich City. Southampton, on the other hand, will face Newcastle on the 27th.