Written by Ross Millen (@RossMillen) from Vitality Stadium
The points were shared when AFC Bournemouth welcomed newly promoted Sheffield United to the Vitality Stadium for the opening fixture of the 19/20 Premier League season.
Substitute and top goal scorer in their previous campaign, Billy Sharp, snatched a late equalizer in the 87thminute which cancelled out Chris Mepham’s first ever Premier League goal.
The Cherries gave both Aaron Ramsdale and Philip Billing a debut for the club. Ramsdale impressed in his loan at AFC Wimbledon last season, meanwhile Billing signed for the Cherries in the summer.
Other new signing, Harry Wilson, was named amongst the bench, whilst Arnaut Danjuma was ruled out with a foot injury alongside Lloyd Kelly who was injured in pre-season.
The attacking trio of Callum Wilson, Joshua King and Ryan Fraser led the team in a formation that also saw Rico and Smith playing as wingbacks.
Sheffield United kicked the game off and within the first minute almost had the opening goal. McGoldrick was put through clean on goal against the debut keeper. However, Ramsdale made a great save diving to his right to deny the striker.
In truth, that was the only real chance of the first half. Adam Smith sent a few crosses in from the right side but there was never a final product.
Meanwhile, Blades’ new singing, Callum Robinson, fired a low-driven shot towards goal from 25 yards out, but he was denied by Ramsdale.
VAR got it’s first ever use to confirm that Adam Smith’s challenge at the end of the first half was not a red card offence, but besides that the first half was extremely uneventful and tame.
However, the second half didn’t disappoint as Sheffield United almost opened the scoring several times within the first five minutes.
First, Chris Mepham made an outstanding sliding challenge to deny Enda Stevens inside the six-yard box, before Ramsdale was called upon again to punch clear very dangerous crosses.
McGoldrick had a pot from 20 yards out but his shot skimmed just wide of the left side post in what appeared to be the tone set for the second half.
Philip Billing should have had a debut goal if it wasn’t for the outstanding reactions from Dean Henderson who tipped behind a powerful drive that was heading straight into the top-right corner.
The Cherries opened the scoring frantically after Fraser won a dangerous free-kick on the edge of the right hand penalty area. He swung it into the box and after efforts from Ake and Wilson, the ball fell to the feet of Chris Mepham who smashed it into the back of the net.
Kevin Friend dished out the second yellow card of the game to Ryan Fraser for complaints after a foul on him in the middle of the pitch.
AFC Bournemouth looked comfortable throughout the majority of the second half once they took the lead, Wilson and King were linking up nicely through the middle, although no end product came of it.
VAR got another test when John Fleck’s challenge on Lerma left him on the ground in pain and the officials were informed whether it was a red card offence or not. Only a yellow was awarded.
Billy Sharp was introduced to the game in the 82ndminute and the formation was changed for the Blades as they piled the pressure onto the Cherries in the last ten minutes of the game.
He already started to make an impact after beating Ramsdale and clipping it inside the box, but the linesman called offside before the ball was able to be put into the net.
It was in the 87thminute that he made his decisive impact when he tapped the ball home from less than ten-yards out after a corner was swung in.
There was no need for a VAR check despite the frantic nature of the goal which saw the Blades equalize with only a few minutes left on the clock.
The officials allocated four additional minutes which gave Ryan Fraser a chance with a free-kick on the edge of the box, however he narrowly skimmed it over the crossbar and out for a goal kick.
Four minutes were up and Kevin Friend put the whistle to his mouth which meant the points were shared on the opening day.
Despite it being a draw, Sheffield United fans came out of it feeling ecstatic whilst the Bournemouth supporters left feeling dismal and disappointed.
AFC Bournemouth XI: Ramsdale, Cook, Mepham, Ake, Smith, Rico, Billing, Lerma, King, Fraser, Wilson (Solanke 90’)
Sheffield United XI: Henderson, O’Connell, Egan, Basham (Sharp 82’), Baldock, Stevens, Lundstrum (Freeman 78’), Norwood, Fleck, McGoldrick (McBurnie 82’), Robinson