Review by Phil Sawyer (Twitter: @sawyer_phil)
It was a tale of two halves as high flying West Ham overcame Bournemouth on a chilly evening on the South Coast.
The Cherries started well, quickly settling into their usual passing rhythm under the lights of a sold out Dean Court. Looking comfortable in possession, Bournemouth dominated the opening stages as West Ham struggled to cope with the signature blend of work rate and technique from Eddie Howe’s side. When the visitors did manage to fashion a chance on the break, Artur Boruc in the Bournemouth goal was dependable when called upon, although the keeper was struggling with his distribution in the blustery conditions.
The opening goal came from Harry Arter, with the tenacious midfielder opening the scoring after 17 minutes. Showing great composure 25 yards out, Arter fashioned himself a pocket of space on the edge of the box and fired in for his first premier league goal via the inside of Adrian’s right side post.
The lead was well deserved, and in truth could (and perhaps, should) have been increased by half time. Debut man Benik Afobe will be frustrated at converting neither of the two excellent chances that fell his way, although he did show some good touches and battled well with a physically imposing West Ham defence. The former Wolves man needs to adapt quickly to the intensity of the premier league, but his pace, power and technical ability should make him an excellent addition to the Cherries starting line-up.
Heading into the break, Eddie Howe will have been pleased with
his team’s performance, with Andrew Surman looking assured in midfield and Junior Stanislas beginning to influence the game when cutting in from the left.
A different story unfolded in the second half. Bournemouth passes were no longer finding their targets, and the East London side had come back out after the break with quality and tempo lacking from their first half display. Dimitri Payet and Enner Valencia in particular began to pull strings in midfield, and it was the former who was able to swing the match in favour of the visitors 20 minutes after the re-start.
Dead-ball specialist Payet curled in a wonderful effort after a free kick was awarded in a dangerous area, and West Ham were level. The home sides’ problems were compounded less than 10 minutes later when the French international produced another piece of brilliant individual skill, bursting past two Bournemouth defenders from the right wing before teeing up Valencia, who smashed home from close range.
West Ham were now firmly on top, and an injury to key man Matt Ritchie unsettled the Bournemouth team, with loanee Juan Iturbe called on as replacement. Lewis Grabban, beginning his second spell at the club, was also launched from the bench, but both players struggled to make an impression on the game.
A disappointing night for the home side continued when Valencia dipped a free kick over the wall for his second goal, in the 84th minute. The Cherries produced a fightback of sorts, but had left themselves too much to do in the closing stages to salvage anything from the match.
The West Ham fans serenaded Payet at the final whistle, and it was his fine individual performance that proved the decisive factor on what was ultimately a deflating Tuesday evening for AFC Bournemouth at Dean Court.
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