Date: 31 January 2018
So, prior to tonight the team’s away form at matches I’d attended was LLLDD. This sequence suggested that tonight should be a D or a W; but no-one really believed it. And when we observed the amazing ‘super moon’ in the sky between pub and stadium, and someone commented that we only beat Chelsea once in a blue moon, everyone else laughed!
Websites and apps that provide a team line-up showed 4-4-2 with Francis as right back. But based on recent matches we were sure it would be three at the back; Fraser and Daniels as wing-backs; and Ibe and Stanislas either side of Wilson in a 5-4-1 or 5-2-3 depending how you look at it. And indeed, when the teams lined up for the kick-off, that system was immediately confirmed. King had to make do with a place on the bench, while neither Smith nor Afobe was present at all. Throughout the first half Bournemouth took everyone by surprise by pressing surprisingly high. There were few goal chances but we were certainly not overwhelmed by our hosts. Chelsea, perhaps as a result of all their activity in the transfer window, seemed out of sorts as though the changes were affecting morale. Hazard in particular wasn’t his usual self. To get to half time with the score at 0-0 was quite an achievement for us, though no-one expected it to last; indeed this looked like becoming the kind of game that would be soon forgotten.
How wrong could we be! Six minutes into the second half that all changed. Alonso had a free kick in a very dangerous place; and you’d put any amount of money on him scoring from there. But a super-confident Boscombe engaged in some trickery, running around in circles and putting him off. Unbelievably this worked, and his shot went over the bar! (He’d miss another golden chance later in the game; it wasn’t his night either!) But almost immediately Wilson charged down the pitch, ‘route one,’ on the break; and, following some great one-two’s with Ibe, scored a wonderful goal. The players celebrated like mad but it wasn’t only Eddie trying to calm them down; we all were. The chances of Chelsea responding immediately (like West Ham last week) seemed all too high. And sure enough, almost from the ‘off’, Chelsea got a shot in. But missed. It seemed every Chelsea shot was being either missed or expertly saved by an in-form Begovic.
And shortly after this Lewis Cook saw a chance to shoot from distance – and took it. It almost came off too, narrowly missing the top right corner. Definitely worth a try. But Chelsea had now seen enough and started to pile on the pressure. Which meant it was somewhat against the run of play when, on 65 minutes, Wilson fed Stanislas who, with a clever flick, made it 2-0. This wasn’t really happening was it? Well three minutes later we were definitely pinching ourselves when, following a corner, Daniels and Stanislas each had a go but from close range ex-Chelsea player Ake scored and made it 3-0 to us.
Now our chances of securing the win looked more assured; but no-one had forgotten how Arsenal came back from 0-3 last season, so we still feared the worst. Chelsea fans, however, started walking out in droves, “Is this a fire drill” replacing the previous chants of “Champions of England? You’re having a laugh”. Eddie used all three substitutions but without changing the system at all. First King replaced Stanislas on Bournemouth’s left. Then Pugh replaced Ibe (King now moving from left to right). And well into the four minutes’ added time Eddie wound the clock down a bit more by bringing on Mousset for Wilson.
We had to wait what seemed like ages, at the final whistle, to applaud our team – who first went through the standard ritual of shaking hands with all the Chelsea players and with the officials. But eventually they came our way, and we cheered them and left very happy indeed. Every Chelsea supporter we spoke to after the game was gracious in defeat. One told me we should have scored even more than three on the night. Another told me he was personally “delighted for Ake”, whom I’ve named my ‘man of the match’ for the second game in a row. Meanwhile we checked the updated Premier League table and were delighted to see ourselves in the top half for the first time this season.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
Fraser (8), Francis (7), S Cook (8), Ake (9), Daniels (8);
Ibe (7), L Cook (9), Gosling (8), Stanislas (8);