By Dan Davis (@dan_davis20)
AFC Bournemouth have been knocked out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle, after south coast neighbours Brighton and Hove Albion emerged comfortable victors at Vitality Stadium in the third round.
Just a year after being eliminated from the prestigious competition by Wigan Athletic, Cherries were once again on the wrong end of another FA Cup horror show.
The Seagulls bagged two goals in three minutes to ease into a commanding lead during the lunchtime kick off, with Anthony Knockaert and Yves Bissouma delivering the damage in the first half.
Marc Pugh reduced the arrears with a superb drive soon after the half-time interval, but Brighton once again restored their grip on a fourth-round spot after Florin Andone headed home from close range.
The defeat consigns Cherries to their third consecutive elimination in the third round of the competition.
Cherries manager Eddie Howe made nine changes to his side, with only Steve Cook and Ryan Fraser retaining their places from the weekend’s 3-3 thriller with Watford.
Liverpool loanee Nathaniel Clyne was handed his debut after signing yesterday, whilst fellow new signing Dominic Solanke was judged not ready to be included in the matchday squad after carrying a slight hamstring strain.
Youngster Kyle Taylor was awarded with his first start for Cherries and fellow academy regulars Matt Butcher and Alex Dobre were named on the bench.
Veteran striker Jermain Defoe signed an 18-month loan deal at Scottish side Rangers and Callum Wilson and Josh King were entirely absent from the clash, meaning Lys Mousset and Jordon Ibe were partnered up front – the latter in a deeper, attacking midfield role.
Chris Hughton’s Seagulls also made sweeping changes, with only Shane Duffy, Dale Stephens and Locadia retaining their places from a recent 2-2 draw at West Ham United.
The cup tie between two south-coast neighbours drifted along at a steady pace, with only full-back Clyne’s first bombarding drive along the right touchline earning a rousing reception from the home crowd.
The game’s first opening was created by Taylor, who did superbly to drift forward and attempt to slot through Jordon Ibe. The pass was too heavy, however, and the visitors scrambled behind for a corner. Simpson then headed over the top from the resultant set piece.
A typically electric race down the touchline from Fraser on 13 minutes resulted in the Scot crossing deep into the box, only for Jason Steele to comfortably collect unchallenged.
Ibe then surged forward into the left of the penalty area and cut onto his right foot, but the following strike was deflected behind. Marc Pugh’s deep in swinging corner was then steered over the top by the stretching Cook at the back post.
Brighton midfielder Stephens, who netted the opener at the London Stadium in midweek, saw a fierce strike deflected off target by Simpson on 21 minutes, before the Englishman was promptly booked for halting a Cherries counter-attack.
The first guilt-edged opening of the contest finally arrived a shade before the half-hour mark. Ibe’s clever run was picked out on the right of the box, but as the angle tightened the ex-Liverpool winger hesitated to shoot. The £15 million man then picked out the unmarked Mousset via a slight deflection, who blazed horribly over the crossbar from 12 yards.
The Frenchman’s miss was then capitalised on in the worst possible fashion by Brighton, who stole the lead a minute later.
A long ball floated over the top of Cherries’ backline was only headed out by Cook as far as Locadia, who controlled delicately and played across to Knockaert. The winger duly applied the finishing touch, drilling hard and low through Cook’s legs and beyond Artur Boruc.
The provider almost found himself on the score sheet with 32 minutes on the clock, but Locadia could only drag his strike comfortably off target.
The Seagulls’ period of dominance was met with further reward soon after. Yves Bissouma was afforded acres of space to drive forward, leaving the Malian free to fizz a powerful effort against the inside of the woodwork and beyond the reach of Boruc – doubling the visitors’ lead.
Brighton could even have effectively sealed their victory before the interval. Gaetan Bong raced down the left flank and delivered high into the box, leaving Locadia free to rise unchallenged and glance a header across Boruc but against the framework.
Pugh then skewed an effort well wide of Steele’s goal in the final action of the first half, prompting boss Howe to introduce Cherries’ December player of the month, David Brooks, at the break.
The Welshman was immediately involved in an altercation between Andone and Diego Rico, which left the Spanish full-back prostrate on the turf and Brooks incensed by the challenge. Referee Michael Oliver kept his cards pocketed on his occasion.
Ibe’s frustrating afternoon continued on 49 minutes, after the winger once again cut inside but saw a strike cannon away from goal as the Albion backline stepped forward.
Cherries were handed a lifeline soon after, as the home side duly halved the deficit. Surman collected possession on the edge of Brighton’s penalty area and laid across for Pugh, who controlled perfectly and unleashed a sumptuous drive across Steele and into the far corner.
The home side’s unlikely comeback was almost completed on the hour mark. Ibe once again failed to get a shot away in space, but fortunately for the home side the ball dropped kindly for Fraser who smashed an effort across the face of goal and wide.
Beram Kayal then whistled a strike narrowly wide of the far post as the Seagulls looked to restore their two-goal cushion.
And Brighton did soon find their third. Knockaert’s delivery from a corner was flicked dangerously across goal by Duffy, leaving the arriving Andone able to shrug off his marker and head home from a couple of yards.
Junior Stanislas was soon introduced, bringing an end to Ibe’s struggles, but the visitors continued to dictate the majority of possession to further frustrate the home crowd.
With another early exit in the FA Cup looming, Brooks tested Steele with a powerful drive from 20 yards that stung the shot stopper’s palms.
Pugh then came close to securing his brace, but his superb, curling effort swung inches wide of the far upright.
There was still time for Steele to superbly parry away Cook’s powerful header from close range following Pugh’s inviting delivery from a corner, ending any hopes of another late, last-gasp Cherries comeback.
The full-time whistle then sounded, extending Cherries’ poor run of form which has seen the Dorset club pick up just two wins from 12 fixtures – nine of which have been defeats.
Bournemouth: Boruc, Clyne, Cook, Simpson, Rico (Daniels, 78), Ibe (Stanislas, 70), Taylor (Brooks, 45), Surman, Pugh, Fraser, Mousset
Unused substitutes: Travers, Ake, Butcher, Dobre