Bournemouth secure vital victory in fight for survival
Crystal Palace 1 Bournemouth 2
Bournemouth secured a vital victory in their pursuit of Premier League survival with a deserved 2-1 away win over Crystal Palace.
Recovering from conceding the opening goal to Scott Dann, they went seven points clear of the relegation zone after Marc Pugh and Benik Afobe scored either side of half-time.
The result leaves 11th-placed Palace winless in the league since December 19, and perhaps more importantly further away from finishing in the top six which had once looked a realistic ambition.
In the absence of the injured Yohan Cabaye, Joe Ledley and Yannick Bolasie, and with first-choice striker Connor Wickham serving the second game of his three-match ban, much of the responsibility for providing the creativity that had once given Palace’s season such promise fell to Wilfried Zaha.
Mile Jedinak and James McArthur replaced Cabaye and Ledley from the team which on Saturday defeated Stoke 1-0 in the FA Cup, but if Zaha was to repeat his performance from the weekend there would be few concerns about the many absentees, even amid their recent run.
The in-form winger, perhaps expectedly, was influential in the opening goal which came in the 27th minute. Collecting possession from Chung-yong Lee’s backheeled pass, he sent a powerful cross towards Dann which the defender impressively volleyed beyond goalkeeper Artur Boruc and into the back of the net.
It says much about Palace’s lack of a consistent finisher that Dann only requires one more to level with five-goal Cabaye as the club’s leading goalscorer so far this season, but for all that his goalscoring contributions have been crucial, he was recruited to help prevent Palace conceding and was outclassed for Bournemouth’s equalising goal.
In the 34th minute Pugh displayed fine footwork to turn the defender and create space from 15 yards, whereupon he then sent a composed finish past Wayne Hennessey and into the bottom-left corner.
Palace manager Alan Pardew had resisted selecting Emmanuel Adebayor against Stoke and, owing to a lack of match fitness, had only named him as a substitute, but after Pape Souare and Zaha missed with reasonable chances towards the end of the first half the temptation grew early in the second.
The striker was already poised for his debut when another significant January signing, Bournemouth’s £10million Afobe, threatened to ruin it. Matt Ritchie forced a fine save from Hennessey with a close-range shot, and Afobe, sensing a chance to score his third goal in three games, pounced unchallenged from inside the area to head the rebound inside the left post.
Adebayor was introduced for Frazier Campbell immediately afterwards, but in Cabaye’s absence the platform had not quite been presented for him to score on his debut as he had at Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham, his three previous Premier League clubs,
Pardew also soon brought on Marouane Chamakh but his team lost shape with two strikers, and a second goal soon began to look beyond them. Chamakh tested Boruc from close range, and Jason Puncheon ambitiously did so from midfield, but the goalkeeper convincingly saved each attempt.
A fine, stoppage-time chance later fell to Adebayor from close range, but the striker snatched at his shot on the turn, and from a fine position struck the side netting, sealing a disappointing defeat for his new team.