Written by Adam McGroarty (@AdamMcGroarty1) from the Vitality Stadium
Philip Billing and Nathan Ake were on the scoresheet as AFC Bournemouth claimed an emphatic victory over Aston Villa in a huge clash at the foot of the Premier League table.
Villa’s January signing Mbwana Samatta pulled one back for the visitors after Jefferson Lerma was sent off for receiving two yellow cards, but it was the Cherries who held onto the three points in the end.
It was Billing who had the first key chance of the game just eight minutes in when his bouncing effort forced Pepe Reina into a diving save to deny the on-target shot.
Just five minutes later, Ryan Fraser was the next AFC Bournemouth player to test the Spaniard in goal for Villa, after his curling effort struck from the left side of the box also forced Reina into a diving save.
After a strong opening 20 minutes from the Cherries, Aston Villa started to grow into the game. Jack Grealish sent a whipped ball towards goal, but the Villa players arriving in the box couldn’t get on the end of the delivery.
Both sides were gifted opportunities to take the lead in quick succession in what was turning into an end-to-end encounter. Grealish was instrumental for the visitors yet again when his pass landed right in front of Ramsdale’s goal, but the effort was struck over the bar.
The Cherries then had the chance to score down the other end when the ball fell to Dan Gosling in the box, but his effort was fired over Reina’s goal and into the stands.
A goal did come for the home side after 37 minutes of play when Billing found himself on the end of Gosling’s cushioned header. The Dane guided the ball past Reina and into the back of the net to give the Cherries their reward for controlling the first half hour of the game.
It didn’t take long for the Cherries to double their lead just seven minutes later when Harry Wilson was stood over a free-kick. The ball eventually fell into the path of Nathan Ake after striking the wall. The Dutchman blasted the ball into the net to send the Vitality Stadium rocking.
Dean Smith’s response was to introduce Bjorn Engels in a half-time substitution at the expense of Ezri Konsa, who was withdrawn due to injury.
It took the Cherries just four minutes to find their stride again when Lerma came close to making it three for the home side. His effort struck from the edge of the box clipped the top of Reina’s crossbar.
Yet just one minute later, the midfielder, who was already due to face a two-game ban due to his 20th minute yellow card, saw red after picking up a second booking for a foul on Jack Grealish. What seemed a comfortable half for the Cherries turned into a tense affair.
Keinan Davis was the next player introduced for the visitors as Smith looked for avenues to get back in the game. He replaced Anwar El Ghazi.
The visitors were getting shots on Ramsdale’s goal, and eventually found a way through with 20 minutes left to play. Premier League debutant, Mbwana Samatta, nodded a looping ball over the on-rushing Aaron Ramsdale to give Villa a lifeline.
Jack Grealish had the next opportunity for Villa as pressure mounted on the Cherries, but his shot was dragged just wide of the post. Keinan Davis also had a chance to put the visitors level just one minute later, but Ramsdale was down quickly to deny the forward.
Whenever AFC Bournemouth had opportunities to put the ball into Villa’s box from set pieces in the closing stages, their solution was to play the ball short to run down the clock and maintain possession.
But it was the Cherries who had the final chance of the game in the last of the four minutes added on. Callum Wilson was sent running down the right side of the pitch, but the sliding Ryan Fraser couldn’t connect with his cross.
The new fluid 4-3-3 system for AFC Bournemouth certainly put Howe’s men on the front foot of this game, starting quickly and creating plenty of chances to score from. The passion and desire shown was instrumental to getting all three points with ten men which lifts the Cherries out of the relegation zone and into 16th place in the Premier League.
AFC Bournemouth: Ramsdale, Smith, Francis, Ake, Rico, Gosling, Lerma, Billing, H. Wilson, C. Wilson, Fraser
Substitutes: Boruc, S. Cook, Surman, Solanke, L. Cook, Stanislas, Surridge
Aston Villa: Reina, Minos, Hause, Konsa (Davis 45′), Guilbert, Nakamba (Trezeguet 80′), Douglas Luiz, Targett, El Ghazi (Davis 58′), Samatta, Grealish
Substitutes: Nyland, Lansbury, Hourihane, El Mohamady