Report from Dan Davis (@dan_davis20) at Vitality Stadium
A sensational double from David Brooks fired AFC Bournemouth to victory against south-coast rivals Brighton – ending the Dorset club’s three-game losing streak.
The Welsh starlet crashed home the opener on 21 minutes after racing through the heart of the visitors’ defence, before doubling his tally in scintillating style late in the second half after flicking home a delicate header from Ryan Fraser’s delivery.
The victory brought an end to Bournemouth’s recent poor form, and lifted the club back into the top half of the Premier League standings.
Cherries’ captain Simon Francis shrugged off a untimely knock to line-up from the off against the Seagulls, as manager Eddie Howe reverted to a back four following the mid-week defeat at Chelsea in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals.
Howe opted for five changes – with Asmir Begovic, Jefferson Lerma, Andrew Surman and Josh King joining Francis in the starting XI after missing out at Stamford Bridge.
Ryan Fraser was named among the substitutes after a recent calf problem.
Chris Hughton’s visitors boasted three alterations, as Florin Andone, Jurgen Locadia and Yves Bissouma lined up at Vitality Stadium following the Seagulls’ home defeat against Chelsea.
Glenn Murray, who sported Bournemouth colours in the 2015/16 campaign and netted three times, started on the bench.
An even start to proceedings on the south coast saw both sides chance their arm, although neither were able to break the deadlock.
Junior Stanislas whipped a free-kick from a tight angle over the crossbar on three minutes after being felled on the edge of the box, before Bissouma then thundered an effort off target as the visitors looked to counter.
It was Brighton who tested home custodian Begovic a minute later. A clever interchange between the ever-lively Pascal Gross and Locadia allowed the latter to breeze into space at the foot of the left-hand upright and unleash a strike at goal. But Bournemouth’s Bosnian shot stopper was down quickly to smother the effort with his legs, denying the Dutchman his maiden strike of the season.
The visitors continued to push forward in search of the opener, and Lerma gifted the Seagulls a golden opening 20 yards from goal after impeding a visiting attacker. Solly March stood poised over the set-piece, but could only bend the effort wide of Begovic’s far post.
Cherries were the next side to carve out a guilt-edged opportunity. Skipper Francis received the ball along the right-hand channel and lofted an inviting delivery into the penalty area. Wilson, who has been strongly linked with a January switch to Chelsea in recent days, arched a header towards the far post but could only guide the ball agonisingly off target.
The live wire Brooks was then heavily involved in Bournemouth’s next foray forward. On 16 minutes, the Welshman threaded through Wilson to the left of the box, who smashed a teasing ball across the face of goal. The effort was cleared away from danger by the sliding Bernardo, who then subsequently crashed painfully into the foot of the post.
But at the other end, Begovic’s reflexes were once again tested. Locadia picked up the ball on the edge of the box, strode forward a couple of paces and arrowed a low drive towards the bottom right corner, only to see the effort superbly parried around the post with a strong palm.
Brooks would then turn provider to scorer on 21 minutes, as the home side edged into a crucial lead. The attacker was picked out by King, before gliding beyond the attentions of Davy Propper and lashing a powerful drive beyond Mat Ryan and into the far corner.
A shade before the half-hour mark, Stanislas let loose an effort from 20 yards, only to see the ball cannon off Lewis Dunk on the verge of the penalty area and cleared away by the scrambling Brighton backline.
But the visitors’ attacking threat almost shone through five minutes before the break, after a Christmas gift of Cherries’ very own making. Surman looked to spray the ball out to the left channel, only to hand possession directly to the marauding March.
The Brighton forward picked out Gross with a perfectly-weighted pass, allowing the German to swing a cross into a congested box. Cherries could only clear as far as Bissouma, whose strike deflected off the arm of Locadia in front of goal, forcing referee Mike Dean to award the home side a free-kick.
There was still time in the closing stages of the half for the visitors to once again threaten a leveller. Gross delivered unerringly once again, leaving Dunk free to clamber high above the home defence and arch a header towards the far corner. Begovic plunged acrobatically to his left to tip behind at the expense of a corner kick, which came to nothing.
Daniels then glanced a header wide at Ryan’s near post in the final moment of the half.
After both sides emerged from the interval, the clash’s scrappy nature once again took hold. Five minutes after the restart, Stanislas’ attempted cross looped behind for a corner kick, which was worked short to Surman. The ex-Norwich midfielder failed to pick out a teammate, however, much to the frustration of the home crowd.
Cherries then forced a goalmouth scramble minutes later following an incisive delivery from a corner, but once again no-one was on hand to divert the cross beyond Ryan.
Stanislas was again presented with the chance to chance his arm from a dead ball situation, following Bissouma’s foul 25 yards from goal. Brighton centre-half Dunk was then subsequently brandished a yellow card by the man in the middle. But from the free-kick, the former Burnley wide-man could only narrowly float his effort wide of the far post with Ryan rooted to the spot.
Cherries boss Howe then made the first change of the game, introducing Fraser into the fray instead of Stanislas.
The home side continued to fashion openings around the edge of Brighton’s penalty area, but Surman couldn’t hit the target after blazing high over the target on 70 minutes.
The visitors’ task took another lurching turn for the worst shortly after, with visiting defender Dunk receiving his marching orders. A fluid breakaway from Cherries culminated in Wilson hurtling towards goal, only for the England international’s run to be prematurely halted by Dunk, who was promptly shown his second yellow.
And the points were all but secured on 77 minutes, with Welshman Brooks rounding off his brace.
Substitute Fraser burst towards the left-hand side of the Brighton penalty area in typical fashion, before lofting a teasing ball into the danger zone. Brooks evaded his marker silkily, before glancing a sumptuous header up and over the sprawling Ryan – his fifth of the season.
Daniels and King both went in search of Bournemouth’s third in the latter stages of the half, but the full-back could only drive into the grateful clutches of Ryan before the latter blazed over the crossbar.
The full-time whistle was blown shortly after, confirming a much-needed victory for Cherries ahead of tricky showdowns with Tottenham and Manchester United.
Bournemouth: Begovic, Francis, S. Cook, Ake, Daniels, Stanislas (Fraser, 65), Surman, Lerma, Brooks (Ibe, 90+1), King (Mousset, 86), Wilson
Unused substitutes: Boruc, Defoe, Rico, Mings
Brighton: Ryan, Montoya, Dunk, Balogun, Bernardo, Propper, Bissouma, Gross (Bong, 76), March, Locadia (Knockaert, 70), Andone (Murray, 80)
Unused substitutes: Steele, Bruno, Stephens, Kayal