Review by Mark Wallington… not the former Leicester City goalkeeper! (Twitter: @mark_wallington)
There’s more to a football away-day than just the game. Visiting fans to Leicester can have a pre-match tour of the most famous car park in Britain where Richard III was found. Or, like a couple of Bournemouth fans I saw, take in the excellent exhibit on Leicester’s Gujarati heritage in the museum near the station.
About the only place you couldn’t see Leicester on display on Saturday afternoon was at the King Power Stadium, where – for the first 20 minutes at least – the city’s table-topping team hardly touched the ball. Don’t believe what you saw on Match of the Day. The Bournemouth possession machine was operating so fluently, the Cherries threatened to pass their opponents into a coma. They even created a couple of good chances, which King and Gosling contrived to miss. Why score a goal when you can keep passing to each other?
When Leicester did finally get the ball, they looked as dangerous as we know they can be. Mahrez and Vardy charged at the Bournemouth defence like two hungry dogs, the former going close with a flashing overhead kick, the latter somehow hitting the woodwork from a few yards out. Scoring conventional goals must be boring for Vardy after his record-breaking feats. The man needs a challenge. He should move to Bournemouth.
His miss looked like being the game’s pivotal point, until the real pivotal point along came in the second half, when Francis was adjudged to have fouled Vardy in the box. This time you can believe what you saw on MoD: Francis got the ball; the penalty decision and subsequent red card were unjustified.
Artur Boruc sorted things out by punching away Mahrez’s spot kick. The Cherries’ fans erupted, suspecting that, down to ten men, this would be the high point of their afternoon. “Artur Boruc, he’s having a party,” they sang. But he wasn’t. He was about to get very busy indeed as Bournemouth mounted an heroic rearguard action. For the last 30 minutes the football was played in one half only. Local archeologists could have excavated for another lost monarch in the home side’s goalmouth and not been disturbed. The odd thing was that Leicester now found themselves with all the possession, and, for a team whose game is based on counter-attack, this was very confusing. They didn’t know what to do. Only once did they carve out a decent opening and Morgan side-footed it into the stands.
Too many Bournemouth games this season have ended with fans willing the clock on to 90 minutes. West Ham, Chelsea, West Brom – all great victories but, let’s be honest, not good for our blood pressure. This game was probably the most fraught, our supporters having to deal with unfair amounts of stress: the man in front of me watched the last ten minutes through his fingers and said he wished he had one of his mother’s anxiety pills; the lad behind released his tension by yelling non-stop abuse at Kasper Schmeichel, frequently reminding him that he isn’t as good as his dad.
I survived by doing a head-count of the Bournemouth fans. I got to one thousand two hundred and eighty-six before the ref. blew the final whistle.
I don’t know what we were worrying about. The result was never in doubt: a nil nil draw that felt like a victory.
As official sponsor of AFC Bournemouth and Crystal Palace FC, Mansion will be offering unique insights into the team’s games each week, through collaboration with a selection of passionate fan reviewers.