Written by Frankie Rudland (@RudlandFrankie)
AFC Bournemouth exited the Premier League with their heads held high after a superb away win wasn’t enough to prolong their five-year stay in the top flight.
Goals from King, Solanke and Stanislas secured Bournemouth’s first ever win at Goodison Park, but it was Aston Villa who clinched survival and broke Bournemouth hearts with a 1-1 draw at the London Stadium.
An inspired Josh King got Bournemouth off to a perfect start after 13 minutes, converting a penalty after Richarlison handled in the area from a Brooks free-kick, but a defensive lapse allowed Theo Walcott to square for Moise Kean who levelled four-minutes before the interval.
The Cherries once again made use of a set piece to restore their lead on the stroke of half-time, Solanke rose the highest to nod in a fine free-kick delivery from Rico. Bournemouth remained a threat throughout, and they made it three when the in-form Stanislas stepped off the bench to finesse a late effort past Pickford’s weak attempted block.
The result took Bournemouth to 34 points, falling agonisingly short of Aston Villa’s tally of 35 which will keep them in the top-tier of English football next season.
Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson said midweek that the Cherries would take the game to Everton, and the early exchanges proved the England striker to be a man of his word as Howe’s men set a ferocious early tempo. Josh King and Diego Rico’s industry forced a couple of early corners for the visitors, with the latter of which falling fortuitously to King in the area who could only scuff his early sighter into Pickford’s gloves.
King looked a man possessed for Bournemouth in the opening minutes, and he so almost notched an assist just shy of the ten minute mark when he fired an incisive low ball through to Callum Wilson, who could only lift his effort onto the right glove of the busy Pickford.
Bournemouth weren’t left rueing their missed chances for long, however. David Brooks’ whipped freekick cannoned off the Everton wall and into the penalty area, where after a brief period of pinball Richarlison was adjudged to have diverted the ball away from the awaiting Solanke with his arm.
VAR has so often been the enemy of the Cherries this season, but on this occasion upheld the decision, leaving Josh King to confidently dispatch the penalty into the bottom right hand corner.
As the old footballing cliché goes, you’re always most vulnerable after scoring a goal, and this once again rang true for Bournemouth. Moise Kean’s cutback was left for the unmarked Richarlison just outside Ramsdale’s area, who’s goal-bound drive had to be deflected away by Lloyd Kelly.
Howe’s heart was in his mouth once more when Keane displayed his creative capabilities that have often been dormant since making the move from Juventus to Merseyside, sliding through veteran Theo Walcott who could only skew his bobbling strike into the legs of Ramsdale after 17 minutes.
The game entered a rare lull following a much needed drinks break, with Everton commanding possession, yet seldom troubling Bournemouth as Richarlison, Kean and Walcott struggled to find a rhythm. Bournemouth had noticeably lost a large amount of their early swagger, with hurried passes and hashed clearances perhaps a tell that the pressure of the drop was weighing on Howe’s men.
Another chance did eventually present itself to Gylfi Sigurdsson after 35 minutes, Walcott yet again gained the Toffee’s some yards before squaring the ball to his Icelandic counterpart, who’s hurried drive flew high and wide from all of 30 yards.
Bournemouth were dropping increasingly deeper as the game progressed, with Everton accepting the offer to press higher up the pitch, and with just five minutes to go before half-time the Toffee’s pressure told. Rico was caught flat footed by the evergreen Seamus Coleman who slipped through Theo Walcott, giving the former England international a chance to square for Moise Kean to tap into an empty net at the far post. No need for VAR on this one.
One almost became two just moments later, Bournemouth were again caught napping down the flanks, allowing Lucas Digne to deliver a pinpoint ball onto the head of Kean, who could only direct a tame header into Ramsdale’s grateful arms.
Bournemouth seemed to be limping towards half-time with their confidence rocked by Everton’s resurgence, that was until Rico was offered the chance to deliver a sweet in-swinging delivery that was met by a combined welcome party of Solanke and Lerma, with replays showing the former was the man that sent the header past Pickford and into the far corner. 2-1 at the break, and a much needed survival boost for the visitors.
The Cherries started the second-half persisting with their newfound route one approach, and it so almost paid dividends. Ramsdale launched a rocket of a ball towards the edge of the Toffee’s penalty area which Wilson plucked from the sky before unleashing a fierce left-footed volley towards goal which Pickford could only beat clear.
That proved a rare highlight, as the game once again resumed the ‘attack vs defence’ format, with Howe happy for his side to sit back and defend against a series of sloppy Everton advances whilst maintaining a threat on the break through the willing runs of Wilson, King and Solanke.
With the introductions of Sidibe and Gordon, Everton looked a side that had been slightly pepped up, and Ancelotti’s men once again started to find some joy down either wing. Digne found Moise Kean lurking in the penalty area with a dinked cross, but the Italian’s header was once again too weak to test Ramsdale.
Academy graduate Gordon looked a real bright spark for Everton, firing a number of troubling crosses into the Bournemouth area, but in the absence of Nathan Ake both Lloyd Kelly and Steve Cook stood firm to safeguard the Cherries’ advantage.
Callum Wilson is yet to score since the Premier League restart, and his golden touch was again left lacking on the 75 minute-mark. Substitute Billing found Josh King with acres of space in the Everton box, leaving the Norwegian with plenty of time to pick out an unmarked Wilson who dithered with the goal at his mercy, allowing Leighton Bained to slide in and prevent the Cherries from securing a two-goal buffer.
Luckily for Wilson, Stanislas spared his blushed just moments later. The former West-Ham winger cleverly exchanged passes with King on the left-flank before cutting in and squeezing a curling effort through the limp wrists of Jordan Pickford. Bournemouth were certainly playing their part in the Premier League relegation pantomime.
Bournemouth continued to pour forward, unaware of results elsewhere, with Stanislas displaying some fine touches around the area as he continues his personal purple patch.
Liverpool loanee Harry Wilson came close late on with a trademark curling strike, which all but concluded a valiant display that everyone connected with AFC Bournemouth could be proud of.
As the final whistle went, news trickled through of Aston Villa’s draw at the London stadium which was enough to condemn the Cherries to the Championship. Too little, too late.
Heartbreak for Bournemouth, and elation for Aston Villa who beat the drop in their return to the Premier League.
Teams and Ratings
Bournemouth: Ramsdale (7), Smith (6), S.Cook (C)(7), Kelly (7), Rico (6), Brooks (6), Gosling (6), Lerma (6), King (9), C.Wilson (7), Solanke (7).
Subs: Stanislas (8), H.Wilson (N/A), Billing (7).
Everton: Pickford, Coleman (C), Keane, Branthwaite, Digne, Gomes, Davies, Walcott, Sigurdsson, Richarlison, Kean.
Subs: Baines, Calvert-Lewin, Sidibe, Bernard, Gordon.