AFC Bournemouth eased any remaining relegation concerns after they produced a dominant performance to ease past a struggling Middlesbrough side 4-0 at The Vitality Stadium.
The Cherries were on top from the first whistle to last, with Josh King giving the home side the perfect start, opening the scoring after less than two minutes. Benik Afobe doubled the home side’s lead and a red card for Middlesbrough’s Gaston Ramirez left Steve Agnew’s side in real trouble. It was more of the same in the second half and man of the match Marc Pugh scored the all important third goal before a wonderful strike from Charlie Daniels put the icing on the cake for Eddie Howe’s side.
In a game of this importance an early goal is vital and that is exactly what the home side got after great work on the left hand side of the pitch from Pugh saw him pull the ball back to find King. The Norwegian, who is in the form of his life, slotted the ball home confidently to open the scoring. Just before the quarter of an hour mark Ramirez, who scored in Boro’s 2-0 win over Bournemouth earlier on in the season, got himself a caution after blatantly diving in the penalty area and it was not too long after which Bournemouth doubled their advantage. An attempted through ball from Harry Arter was blocked and the ball found its way to Afobe, who put the ball in the net past the onrushing Brad Guzan.
It was nearly 3-0 a few minutes later after a classy back heel from Pugh found its way to King, but the Cherries top scorer clipped the top of the bar. With 20 minutes on the clock, Middlesbrough’s afternoon went from bad to worse after Ramirez committed a rash challenge on Pugh. The Uruguayan may have only caught him slightly, but the intent was there, and referee Graham Scott had no choice but to send the midfielder off.
Marten De Roon could have given the travelling fans some joy in what was a woeful first half after hitting a wonderful long range effort on the half volley. The strike was threatening to creep in the top corner but Artur Boruc sprung to his left to make a fine diving save to preserve his side’s 2-0 lead at half time.
The opening 15 minutes of the second half were not quite as dominant for AFC Bournemouth in terms of possession, having had 67% in the first period. Guzan produced two wonderful saves to keep the score to two, first diving to keep out an Afobe header from point blank range, before clawing out a fierce long range effort from Ryan Fraser.
With 25 minutes to play Howe’s men got the third goal they craved as Pugh wowed the crowd with wonderful skill and quick feet to cut inside and curl an effort into the bottom far right corner. Five minutes later and it was 4-0, as a training ground routine free kick was played to Daniels. The left back took a couple of clever touches to get into position before firing the ball low into the bottom right corner past a helpless Guzan.
With the result beyond any doubt, Bournemouth saw the game out with relative ease. Substitute Lys Mousset had the chance to grab his first goal for the club, but instead he was holding his head in his hands after blazing a shot over the bar from around five yards out. The full time whistle was greeted with cheers all around the Vitality Stadium as the fans celebrated an all important win which was sealed in style. The Cherries are now up to 12th in the table and next face a trip to bottom of the league Sunderland.