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Manchester United 1-0 Bournemouth: Lukaku back in the goals as Mourinho’s men return to victory

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Manchester United bounced back from their disappointing derby day defeat to rivals Manchester City as Romelu Lukaku’s first-half goal was enough to see off a spirited Bournemouth on Wednesday night.

With an 11-point gap opened up courtesy of City’s victory at Old Trafford on Sunday, Jose Mourinho knew his side could ill-afford to drop any more points or the title race could be all-but over already.

Torrential conditions on Wednesday evening made that task an awful lot harder against a well-drilled Bournemouth outfit, but Lukaku scored a powerful header to give the hosts an early lead.

They didn’t have it all their own way though, and they were once again indebted to an inspired goalkeeping display from David de Gea after he kept out Charlie Daniels and Junior Stanislas well.

United had a glorious opportunity to seal the win after the break when Anthony Martial somehow scooped over from six-yards, and substitute Marcus Rashford rattled the frame of the goal with a thunderous 25-yard effort, but De Gea saved twice from Jermain Defoe to secure a key three points.

Manchester City’s 4-0 thumping of Swansea City ensures that they maintain their 11-point advantage over their city rivals, whilst Bournemouth remain two points above the relegation zone in 16th place.

United bounce back in underwhelming fashion

It may not have been pretty, or vintage, but it was efficient.

In Jose Mourinho’s post-match interview the Portuguese tactician said that the main objective of Bournemouth’s visit was to respond to their humbling derby day defeat, making note of the importance of not losing ‘two in a row’, and the workmanlike manner of the victory certainly backs this up.

The hosts managed just two shots on target, only narrowly shading possession with 56%, and Bournemouth will be disappointed that they couldn’t leave Old Trafford with something to show.

But with the games starting to pile up, and a huge deficit to make up to City, it’s not so much about the manner of win but instead more about getting the three points itself to keep on their coat tails.

The fact that both Liverpool and Arsenal dropped points against bottom-half opposition on Wednesday shows the obstacles the top sides face week-in, week-out, and Mourinho will be delighted with his win.

One man who will also be feeling a little more positive this morning is Romelu Lukaku, who got himself on the scoresheet for only the second time in nine league games with a thumping header.

The Belgian has come in for a lot of criticism after his derby day display – gifting City their goals with some poor defensive work before missing a gilt-edged late chance – and his reluctance to celebrate his opener perhaps highlighted the strain and the pressure that he’s been put under in recent times.

It was a finish that we have become accustomed to seeing from the tall striker, rising highest and leaving Asmir Begovic with no chance, and he’ll hope that he can finally kick-on after his dry patch and start a run.

Bournemouth left to rue missed opportunity

Last season Bournemouth were one of the sides who came to Old Trafford and left with a battling point and there wouldn’t have been many in the ground that would’ve begrudged a similar outcome last night.

From the first whistle the Cherries showed that they didn’t come to just sit back and soak up home pressure, and as the match went on it was fairly clear to see they were the team pressing the most.

Boss Eddie Howe will no doubt be buoyed by his side’s performance in tough conditions – despite falling on the wrong end of the score-line – and Bournemouth will currently be thinking ‘what if’ after Charlie Daniels, Junior Stanislas, Ryan Fraser and Jermain Defoe were all denied by the irrepressible De Gea.

The Manchester United number one made seven saves on the night, and the fact that opposite number Asmir Begovic only made two tells its own story of which goalkeeper was the busier one.

The tough matches come thick and fast for the south coast side with Liverpool, Chelsea and leaders Manchester City to come in their next three fixtures, but based on Wednesday’s showing there’s little reason for them to fear the top sides as long as they can discover a clinical edge in front of goal.

McTominay and Shaw take their chance

With the fixture list starting to ramp up heading into Christmas, last night offered Jose Mourinho opportunity to rest some of his players after a gruelling clash with Manchester City at the weekend.

Ashley Young and Ander Herrera were amongst those given a break, opening the door for both Luke Shaw and young midfielder Scott McTominay to make their respective first Premier League appearances of the season, and both would have left boss Mourinho with something to think about at the full-time whistle.

Shaw was a particular highlight in United’s recent Champions League victory against CSKA Moscow and he picked up where he left off against the Cherries, looking confident and disciplined in defence.

It was McTominay – filling in whilst Paul Pogba sees out his suspension – who caught the eye the most though, working nicely alongside Nemanja Matic and providing sterling protection for the back-four.

The 21-year-old made three timely interceptions and ended the match with a 91% pass completion rate, also touching the ball 61 times in the middle, and he could have done enough to warrant another start at West Brom this coming Sunday.

After making a number of cup competition appearances this season too it is becoming more and more likely that McTominay could be the next to emerge from an esteemed line of academy products at United.

Will is a Multimedia Journalism graduate from the University of Salford, specialising in the art of sports. Long-time suffering Northampton Town fan who once saw us win a league title. Find him on Twitter - @willypearson.

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West Ham 1-1 Bournemouth: Three talking points from the London Stadium

Rob Meech

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Hernandez
Photo: Reuters

West Ham United and AFC Bournemouth extended their respective unbeaten runs with a 1-1 draw at the London Stadium. Both clubs have climbed away from the relegation zone in recent weeks and this was a keenly-fought encounter between two evenly-matched sides.

Following a goalless first half, the Cherries broke the deadlock through Ryan Fraser after a breakaway, only for Javier Hernandez to equalise for the hosts 64 seconds later. A share of the spoils was a fair reflection and means West Ham and Bournemouth, 11th and 12th respectively, have identical records from the past six Premier League matches. Here are three talking points…

Future looks bright for both clubs

Just a month ago, the outlook was markedly different for both West Ham and Bournemouth. At Christmas, the Cherries were in the bottom three and the Hammers were not much better off. But the eventful 3-3 draw between these two teams on Boxing Day proved to be the start of an unbeaten run for each, which has given both real hope of avoiding relegation.

Such is the congested nature of the bottom half that it only takes a couple of victories to change the complexion on the table. Both clubs have won two and drawn three of their previous five fixtures, which has been enough to put clear daylight between themselves and the drop-zone.

This game, much like the corresponding fixture at the Vitality Stadium, suggests neither West Ham nor Bournemouth should be in serious trouble at the end of the campaign – if they can maintain their form. Equally though, David Moyes and Eddie Howe will be aware that complacency is not an option.

Impressive Fraser continues his resurgence

Bournemouth’s upturn in results since Christmas has coincided with a revitalised Fraser. The Scottish winger, affectionally known as ‘Wee Man’ by Cherries supporters, now has three goals and one assist in his past four appearances. His finishing has noticeably improved this season and he took his goal against West Ham with aplomb, firing the ball past Adrian after a defence-splitting pass from the returning Junior Stanislas.

Furthermore, Fraser’s improved stamina has enabled him to be effective for longer. Previously, the 23-year-old began to flag towards the latter stages and he was often replaced. But a better diet has paid dividends this campaign and he is rapidly becoming a key figure for Howe. Fraser has pace to burn and a directness that gives the team something different. Now though, he is having a real impact in games and his five Premier League goals are second only to Callum Wilson in the scoring charts.

Can West Ham afford to let Hernandez leave?

Speculation has surfaced in the past few days that Moyes may be willing to sell Hernandez, who only joined the club last summer. His arrival under Slaven Bilic was hailed as a real coup, but he has fallen down the pecking order since Moyes took the reins, with the former Manchester United supremo preferring Marko Arnautovic up top.

Hernandez though, has a creditable career goalscoring record and underlined his predatory instinct at the London Stadium. Only a minute after the Hammers had gone behind, the Mexican popped up in the right place to poke the ball past Asmir Begovic. It was Hernandez’s fifth Premier League goal of the season, all of which have been scored from inside the penalty area.

With Andy Carroll expected to be sidelined for a month through injury, West Ham’s striking resources would be depleted further if Hernandez is allowed to leave. While he may not offer much outside the box, as he illustrated against Bournemouth that he is the ideal man to call on when a goal is needed.

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Bournemouth 2-1 Arsenal: Three talking points from the Vitality Stadium

Rob Meech

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Bournemouth
Photo: Reuters

Bournemouth came from behind to claim a much-needed victory over Arsenal, whose hopes of qualifying for the Champions League have suffered another blow.

After an insipid opening period at the Vitality Stadium, the action sparked into life when Hector Bellerin broke the deadlock on 52 minutes.

But Arsenal’s lead was short-lived, as goals from Callum Wilson and Jordon Ibe – his first for the club – secured the Cherries’ fourth home win of the season, which lifted them to 13th in the table.

Arsenal, meanwhile, slipped further adrift in the battle to finish in the top four after their third consecutive league game without a win. Here are three talking points…

Alexis Sanchez moves closer to the Emirates exit door

All the pre-match talk centred on a player who wasn’t involved in the contest. Not only was Alexis Sanchez not named in the starting XI, he wasn’t even on the bench having not travelled to the south coast.

Manager Arsene Wenger was ambiguous when pressed on this in the aftermath of the defeat, but the insinuation was clear; the want-away Chilean will not be an Arsenal player come the end of the transfer window.

Both Manchester City and Manchester United have been heavily linked with a move for Sanchez, whose contract at the Emirates expires in the summer. Despite his uncertain future, this match was crying out for his never-say-die attitude.

Arsenal controlled the first half and deserved to be in front when Bellerin fired home. However, the Gunners were unable to add a second and Bournemouth capitalised with two late efforts. Arsene Wenger’s side are now without a win in four games in 2018 as their troubles mount.

Bournemouth buck the trend against the ‘Big Six’

Before this fixture, Bournemouth had lost all of their matches against the ‘Big Six’ this season, scoring only one goal in seven outings.

While those are not necessarily the games that will define their campaign, it was a worrying statistic that Eddie Howe needed to address. Facing an Arsenal team without Sanchez or Mesut Ozil looked like being the Cherries’ best opportunity to buck that trend, and so it proved.

With only nine points separating all the teams in the bottom half, an unexpected win can do so much to alter the picture. The Cherries didn’t fold after going a goal behind and they merited the three points for an enterprising second-half display.

Having beaten Arsenal for the first time in their history, Bournemouth are now four points clear of the drop-zone. They are by no means safe because of this result, but the psychological impact could be immense.

Jack Wilshere getting back to his best

Returning to the club at which he spent last season on loan, this was not the afternoon Jack Wilshere would have hoped for. Though it didn’t go well from a team perspective, the 26-year-old was close to his best at the Vitality Stadium.

He touched the ball more than any other player on the pitch and also completed more passes. After a frustrating start to the campaign where he struggled for minutes in the Premier League, Wilshere is now establishing himself in the starting XI.

He was Arsenal’s best player against Bournemouth and in a team that lacks leaders, he was one of the few who looked like he wanted the ball. Wilshere ran the show in midfield and was always keen to move forward with purpose.

England manager Gareth Southgate surely can’t ignore Wilshere’s form and, fitness permitting, he must be a shoo-in for the next squad. In a World Cup year, Wilshere is peaking at just the right time.

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Bournemouth 2-1 Everton: Three talking points from the Vitality

Rob Meech

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Photo: Reuters

Ryan Fraser scored twice as Bournemouth claimed their first Premier League victory since November to move out of the relegation zone. The Scotland winger, who opened the scoring in the first half before Idrissa Gueye equalised for Everton, netted an 88th-minute winner as the Cherries ended a run of eight matches without a win.

It eased the pressure on boss Eddie Howe, whose side have climbed to 14th thanks to their fifth triumph of the campaign, and condemned the Toffees to their first defeat under new manager Sam Allardyce. Here are three talking points from an engaging clash at the Vitality Stadium.

Good things come in small packages

Although he may be small in stature, Fraser is having a big impact for Bournemouth this season. After a spell out of the team, the diminutive Scotsman has regained his place and become an integral player for Howe. Fraser’s third and fourth goals of the campaign could not have been more timely, as the Cherries celebrated only their third home triumph.

His first of the afternoon was a tidy finish after being found in space by Joshua King. His second, with the clock running down, was aided by a deflection to divert the ball past goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, but that did not detract from the mazy run that took him into the box and in a position to shoot.

Fraser often struggled to complete 90 minutes last season, but his stamina has noticeably improved thanks to extra strength and conditioning work. Direct running with the ball has always been a feature of the 23-year-old’s play and now he is adding goals and a threatening dead-ball delivery to his repertoire.

Everton suffer first setback under Allardyce

The Toffees headed into this fixture high on confidence, having conceded only two goals in the six games under Allardyce’s stewardship. But this was a lacklustre performance and the Everton manager could have no complaints as they left the Vitality Stadium empty-handed.

Bournemouth controlled the game in the first half and deserved to go ahead, although the goal did stem from a misplaced pass by James McCarthy. The introduction of Wayne Rooney at the start of the second period had a positive impact and the Toffees duly equalised. But Cherries’ keeper Asmir Begovic was not called into further action and Everton’s defence could not withstand the pressure as Fraser bagged a late winner.

Allardyce has built his reputation on defensive stability and this was a rare lapse. A more pressing concern though, is a lack of firepower in attack, with Everton relying too heavily on youngster Dominic Calvert-Lewin. A striker capable of scoring regularly is surely top of his wish-list for the upcoming transfer window.

Howe’s trust in his players is rewarded

While not at the stage where he was fearing for his job, there is no denying Howe was feeling the heat after a club record-equalling sequence of eight Premier League games without a victory. With a mounting injury crisis and his side sitting in the bottom three, questions were being asked about Howe’s credentials.

As ever, he stuck to his principles. And by naming the same team that drew with West Ham United four days earlier, he backed his players to respond. Howe was rewarded with a fluent performance that showed the players remained fully committed to their manager and his methods.

This was the first time Bournemouth had beaten a team in the top half this season and undoubtedly their most important three points. What will especially delight Howe is that, for the second game in succession, they netted a late goal when it was required. This character is sure to be crucial, with more twists and turns to come.

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