Date: 29 February 2020
Both teams wanted to win this match, for different reasons, but the result in the end was a fair one.
I’d feared difficulties when strong winds were forecast for today – and got up early in case speed restrictions were being applied on the trains (or – worse – they were all cancelled and I’d have to drive down again!). But all was well, and I actually arrived in Bournemouth early. There was a heavy downpour of rain that drenched everyone in the first few rows of seats before the match had even started, but this was soon followed by clear blue skies with not a cloud in sight. Meanwhile, the team lined up in the 4-1-4-1 (that can turn into 4-1-2-3) system we’ve become used to of late, with Lerma as always in the defending midfield position. The bench looked strong too, with Francis, Rico, Harry Wilson and Solanke all unused subs, and no sign at all of Simpson or Surridge.
We began brightly, Billing having an early shot saved (he should have done better) and then the same player having a great chance to pass right-to-left to King who had sight of goal, but choosing to shoot into the side netting instead. Later there was a good run by King on the left, resulting in a cross to Wilson whose eventual shot was easily saved. These lost opportunities were frustrating, especially as we were the better team for the first fifteen minutes or so. But for the rest of the half it was all Chelsea, passing the ball around professionally while we sat deep and hardly got a look in. Alonso’s goal on 33 minutes was thoroughly deserved. Half time: 0-1.
The start of the second half couldn’t have been more different. We played much better, and further up the pitch. We scored two goals in quick succession: a header from Lerma following a set-piece (corner kick), and three minutes later good work from Billing and Stacey on the right leading to a cross which Wilson couldn’t get to but King could. We had to wait for VAR on our second goal (“possible handball”) but eventually it was confirmed. The sight of the entire Chelsea crowd standing like statues at this point was a joy to behold! And even a heavy hailstorm couldn’t dampen our enthusiasm.
Bournemouth were fired up now, and we kept playing, but Chelsea gradually came more and more into the game. King (still not fully over his previous injury) was replaced by Stanislas, and Lewis Cook (who looked as though he’d picked up a new injury) was replaced by Gosling. Both were like-for-like substitutions and both substitutes played well. But it was increasingly difficult to hold on to the lead as Chelsea won corner after corner after corner.
It was inevitable that one of these would result in a goal. But it was a shame for Ramsdale that, on an occasion when he actually made a terrific save from Pedro, Alonso (again!) scored on the rebound. Ramsdale’s frustration was clear to see, but all in all he’d had a good afternoon and had won us a point. Whether that will be enough to save us from relegation remains to be seen, as teams around us are picking up points too.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
Stacey (9), S Cook (7), Aké (8), A Smith (7);
Fraser (6), Billing (6), L Cook (7), King (8);
C Wilson (7)