Date: 30 January 2019
This is one of those matches fans will talk about for years to come. But no-one saw that coming before kick-off – nor even at half time!
The fact that both Lerma and Wilson were missing from the squad seemed worrying. This didn’t look like a team that was going for all three points. Surman took Lerma’s place and Stanislas started on the right of midfield – with King and Brooks as twin strikers. Boruc kept his place as a reward for a clean sheet last time out. As this was the first home match since the (presumed) death of Emiliano Sala, it was preceded by a minute’s silence to remember him, his pilot, their families, and all at Cardiff City FC. Most clubs have had a minute’s applause for him but we had a minute’s silence – which is always slightly risky, but on this occasion you could have heard a pin drop. The match then began and in the first minute we were awarded a corner kick, which Fraser played short to Brooks before starting a run along the goal line so that Brooks could return it to him. It was a move we’ve seen many times before, but unfortunately Chelsea had done their homework and successfully intercepted Brooks’ pass. (Half an hour later the identical move was attempted from the opposite corner but surprisingly worked well and led to a shot from King.) Chelsea dominated the first half but Boruc kept us in the game. Early on he tipped a Kovacic shot over the bar; near the end of the half he punched away a shot from Azpilicueta; and in between these times he caught many shots that other goalies might have missed. Despite the linesman in front of the East Stand missing a lot of Chelsea off-sides, they somehow failed to score at all. We were playing well at times – Surman still passing backwards more often than not but Gosling a very strong presence in midfield. Our best chance of the half came from a solo effort by Brooks in the 37th minute, but the Chelsea keeper saved the shot low to his left. Given the galaxy of household names in the Chelsea starting line-up, 0-0 was a very respectable half time score for us – though at this point no-one expected that our defence could hold out much longer.
The half time ‘entertainment’ was still in progress when the teams returned to the pitch, and the referee surprised everyone by blowing his whistle almost immediately. A clever reverse pass from Brooks found King who slammed the ball into the net right in front of me in the 47th minute. Large numbers of supporters were still taking refreshments in the concourses, and ran back into the stands to find out what all the cheering was about. Some of them probably thought they’d missed the Cherries’ only goal of the match, but how wrong could they be? Chelsea broke forward but Clyne cleverly chested the ball down to Boruc’s feet. There were several Chelsea corners in quick succession but then it was our turn to break and King found Brooks who cut inside and slotted home for 2-0. Again, having thought I’d got a rotten seat in the northern corner of the East Stand, both the goal and the ensuing celebration took place right in front of me.
Chelsea’s Higuaín, on his first Premier League start for his new club, was immediately substituted. Cries of “What a waste of money!” rang out around the ground. Brooks then had a chance to score again, but this time couldn’t quite control the ball. Then he appeared to be limping and went down injured, so Eddie replaced him with Ibe. Ibe now played to the right of Josh King up front, but the rest of the team retained their starting positions. In a half when all the team were on top form and confidence was sky high, Ibe had a surprisingly good game – and even Surman started putting in some good forwards passes!
On 74 minutes an excellent move involving Clyne and Stanislas led to the ball being squared to King, who had no trouble slotting the ball into the net by the far post from short distance. King was now on a hat trick, and if Eddie had previously intended to replace him with Solanke any such thoughts were now shelved. King was awarded the sponsors’ ‘man of the match’ towards the end of the game. But there was still more to come from the Cherries!
Five minutes’ time was added to the end of the match; and it was five minutes we didn’t really want, as we so wanted to keep the clean sheet. Eddie brought on Daniels for Fraser wide on the left, to use up a bit of time. In the last minute of added time we were awarded a free kick in a promising position and Ibe went up to take it. But first Eddie brought on Mepham for Stanislas. Mepham went over to Aké with some instructions but Aké sent him forward to help with the free kick. He arrived on the scene just in time to see Daniels head in Bournemouth’s fourth goal of the night. In no time the referee was blowing the final whistle. Everyone cheered their team who’d not only – for the first time this season – beaten a top six side, but done so in style. The team did a slow lap of honour, and despite the cold no-one seemed in a hurry to leave. I faced lengthy hold-ups on the northbound carriageway of the spur road (when I’d been assured the roadworks only affected the southbound carriageway), but the journey home was still a pleasant one because this had been a night to remember.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
Clyne (8), S Cook (7), Aké (7), A Smith (7);
Stanislas (7), Gosling (8), Surman (7), Fraser (8);
King (9), Brooks (9)