AFC Bournemouth v Southampton
The Vitality Stadium - Wednesday, 15th December 2016
> Jay Rodriguez scores two goals
> Bertrand scores equaliser
IBO Reporter : Spot51
One of the low points of last season was Saints’ failure to turn up at Bournemouth in our league game. The Cherries saw us off without breaking sweat. I don’t doubt a number of our senior professionals remember that performance with distaste and were, hopefully, determined to do better this time.
As I prepared for this match report I consulted the usual pundits who were all expecting a home win. The bookies, on the other hand, were all offering shorter odds on Southampton and they are rarely wrong. The clincher for me was the new, clean third kit. There was no way a side in such tidy white shirts could lose to a side in nasty stripes!
Puel rang the changes again, selecting a whole new midfield and bringing back Rodriguez and Cédric. More of a surprise was his decision to pay Yoshida instead of Fonte. Whilst Sky’s pundits were seeing all sorts of intrigues afoot, I’m no longer sure we are weaker when Maya plays. His reading of the game is much improved and his speed allows him to recover well. Bournemouth brought back Wilson up front. As I’d dropped him from my Fantasy Team following concussion (him not me) I was doubly hoping he would not score today.
Saints started confidently enough and might have had an early penalty as Bertie was up-ended but Clattenburg saw nothing wrong. Both sides then won corners but Arter’s was cleared and Bertie’s was pushed back to him. He stuck his next cross in the crowd.
On 5 minutes Bournemouth won another corner. Arter’s cross was knocked behind for another. This time they took a short one which was fed back to Wilshere. His cross to the far post might have been cleared by Højbjerg, but he barely moved as Ake dived in front of him and headed past Forster: 1-0 Bournemouth – Bugger!
Saints tried to respond but were clearly rocked by the early goal. Both sides were careless in possession and it wasn’t for another 5 minutes that another chance was created. The speedy Daniels raced past Cédric, but Yoshida ate up the ground to close him off. Then the ball was fed to Pugh, but his overhit cross went out for a goal kick. On 12m Boufal lost the ball in his own half allowing Francis to play in King. Fortunately Forster got everything behind his shot and held on.
Saints eventually worked the ball forwards and slick passing found Bertie on the left. Suddenly he cut inside, drove between two defenders and hit a low cross shot beyond Boruc into the far corner: 1-1 and all square.
Boufal and Wilson then had a contretemps. As the retaliator Boufal might have been carded, but got just a talking to. A minute later Saints high press recovered the ball deep in Bournemouth territory allowing Boufal to test Artur from distance. Then Pugh won a corner off Cedric but Forster caught Arter’s cross.
Around the mid-point of the first half, Maya twice closed down Wilson preventing him from getting a shot away. Then on 25m a lovey ball from Boufal to Redmond allowed him to feed the ball across the box but Jay Rod was too deep to benefit. Boufal was causing a degree of panic down our left. On 26m he lost the ball but it was recovered by Hojbjerg who shot horribly high.
On 27m we saw an illustration of how the balance of the game had changed. Harry Reed conceded a corner on Bournemouth’s right wing. Arter took it short. Last time they did this, they scored; this time Saints pressure saw the ball passed all the way back to Artur.
Clasie was having a decent game and on 29m his cross found Redmond at the back post but his header was cleared. Saints were dominating the ball now. They might have gone ahead moments later when Bertie reached the by-line and cut the ball back. Redmond was in front of goal but sliced his shot horribly. Oh dear!
Bournemouth then enjoyed a brief spell attacking with no end product. Then on 34m, Boufal was booked for diving. The Moroccan was seeing a lot of the ball, threatening much but achieving little. On 39m he carried the ball past two flummoxed defenders before sending his pass straight to Harry Arter. A minute later another Saints attack ended when Cook headed away Redmond’s cross.
Boufal continued to infuriate. He is undoubtedly a skilful player but often tries to do too much and ends up squandering possession. The half drew to a close with Saints continuing to enjoy good possession. Bournemouth had a single attack down their left but Daniels put the ball out for a goal kick. After a minute of added time, the referee brought the half to a close: 1-1 and all to play for.
The only change at half time saw Puel withdraw Harry Reed. He was replaced by Steve Davis for his 150th appearance for Saints. The away team picked up where they’d left off, scything through Bournemouth’s midfield to get at their back four. A poor defensive header by Francis almost saw Redmond score, but Ake’s intervention took the sting off his effort so Artur could grab the ball.
Two minutes later the half-time change paid off for Saints. Steve Davis played a delightful one-two with Boufal, driving into the box to collect the return and chipping the ball over the onrushing Boruc. This time Jay Rod made a near post run, arriving in front of Ake and stabbing the ball over the line: 1-2 Saints, and no more than we deserved.
On 49m Forster was required to save a Wilson header but Saints were looking the better side, winning the ball back and setting up their own attacks. On 53m Bertie nearly handed the Cherries a route back when he gave the ball to King. His pass found Wilson but the striker fired over.
Both sides had promising moves: Redmond lost control in their penalty area before King fouled Yoshida in ours. Then Bournemouth made their first change, replacing Pugh with Fraser. On 57m Jay Rod closed down and robbed Cook near the corner flag and made for the box. Artur did well to block his fierce drive and Ake made sure the rebound did not creep inside the post.
Saints continued to dominate but Boufal committed a couple of unnecessary fouls. It was no surprise when Puel replaced him with Tadić on 62m. The Moroccan seemed upset but one more ill-judged tackle may have seen him sent off. The next Bournemouth attack won a throw which saw Cook launch the ball into our box. It was safely dealt with by our defence.
Wilson was replaced by Afobe but it was still Saints doing most attacking. Tadić won a corner, then Højbjerg had a shot blocked. Rodriguez was looking very good; he was holding up play, allowing team-mates to get alongside him. I don’t recall his earlier incarnation doing that much of this. It was a risky thing to think but my notes say “Saints look the better players AND the better team”.
Ibe came on for King and Bournemouth then enjoyed a few minutes in our half. Twice Wilshere won free-kicks by running into our players: first Højbjerg, then Clasie who was fore-arm smashed but got booked FFS. At least when Steve Davis was booked on 78m, it was for a proper foul.
Two minutes later Davis made the tackle of the match to finish a Bournemouth move. This enabled Saints to break upfield where Redmond cut inside and hit a swerving shot just over the bar. Both sides then won corners from which nothing came. By 83m Saints were back in control, passing and moving with the home side simply chasing.
On 85m Redmond tried to cut in from the left. Beating one man, he was blocked by the next but the ball bounced up, hit his shoulder and looped forward across the edge of the penalty area. The ball fell just behind Rodriguez, but the striker spun and caught it on the volley. What a hit! It went like a rocket beyond the despairing dive of Boruc and into the top corner: 1-3 and Goodnight!
In the final 5 minutes Cédric went down and needed treatment before he could continue. By the time play restarted we were into 5 added minutes. Virgil hit a volley which Artur saved and up the other end Cook drew a save from Forster. Then Jay Rod was replaced by Long, but Saints continued to move the ball nicely. Davis and Clasie were dominating midfield and Tadić was probing down either flank. The penultimate whistle of the match was when our left back was caught offside on 95m.
The final whistle sent Saints up to 7th and ensured a very happy Xmas for those of a Red and White persuasion. This was so different from our last visit to the Vitality when we were very poor. Even Eddie Howe admitted we deserved to win today. It looks like we may have got our mojo back – and not before time.
As usual for the games I report on, a number of Saints players were in contention. Clasie and Bertrand were very good and there is no doubt that Steve Davis changed the game when he came on. But this time I’m happy to go with Sky’s choice which was Jay Rodriguez. All true Saints fans have suffered alongside their number 9 in recent weeks. Time and again chances had been spurned and it was clear how much Jay was hurting. Today he made a near post run to meet Davis pass and knocked it in. In the final minutes, he tonked one in from 20 yards like he’d never been away. Well done Jay – remember how good it felt today: and please keep doing it!
17 King (Ibe 72')
7 Pugh (Fraser 55')
13 Wilson (Afobe 64')
17 van Dijk
18 Reed (Davis 45' - Booked 78')
4 Clasie - Booked 76'
9 Rodriguez (Long 90+3')
19 Boufal - Booked 34' (Tadić 62')
Sun, 18th Dec 2016
AFC Bournemouth 1
- Aké 6'
- Bertrand 14'
- Rodriguez 48', 85'
Referee : Mark Clattenburg
Attendance : 11,113
AFC Bournemouth 47%
AFC Bournemouth 10
Shots on Target
AFC Bournemouth 5
AFC Bournemouth 7
AFC Bournemouth 6