With three wins from their last four games, Bournemouth seem to have secured their Premier League status for another season. Leeds’ fate is still undecided though, as with five games left to play they sit just a point above the relegation zone. A trip to the Vitality Stadium would provide Javi Gracia’s side with an opportunity to change their fortunes and begin a late push for survival.
BOU: Neto; Viña, Kelly, Senesi, Smith; Lerma, Rothwell; Christie, Billing, Ouattara; Solanke
LEE: Meslier; Cooper, Koch, Kristensen; Harrison, Roca, McKennie, Ayling; Gnonto, Bamford, Summerville
The spectators on the South Coast didn’t have to wait long for the drama to unfold, as there were calls for a penalty within the opening five minutes. Crysencio and Bamford looked to play a cheeky one-two on the edge of the box, but as the Englishman attempted to play the return ball, it struck the arm of Viña. The Cherries were saved by VAR though, as the replays deemed that the offence took place just outside of the area.
Marc Roca stepped up to strike the resulting free-kick, and his low effort snuck under the bottom of the Bournemouth wall – but Neto was able to parry it away effectively. Gnonto looked to create a chance next ash he played in Harrison, though his first-time strike was blocked by a well-positioned Bournemouth defender.
Bournemouth took the lead after twenty minutes, perhaps against the run of play, as Jefferson Lerma fired home from twelve yards out. Billing and Solanke did well to split the Leeds defence before playing in the Colombian, who found the top-right corner to send the Cherries into the lead.
Four minutes later, Lerma completed his brace as he fired home from close range. Christie’s corner was dealt with horribly by Illan Meslier, who ended up giving Lerma the perfect opportunity to fire into the roof of the net. The midfielder made no mistake, and the visitors had well and truly been punished.
Their two-goal lead lasted less than ten minutes though, as Patrick Bamford got one back for Leeds in the 32nd minute. Gnonto’s cross was sublime, and Bamford directed it into the bottom left corner with a super header. Neto never really had a chance to make the save.
The remainder of the final half played out in a relatively quiet manner, with neither side really creating any more chances. Bournemouth held the advantage at the break, though Leeds had certainly shown resilience to come back and reduce the deficit.
The Cherries wasted a chance to add to their lead, as Christie’s cross towards the back post was squandered by Billing. The midfielder attempted a bicycle kick, but failed to make any meaningful contact and the opportunity went missing.
Solanke extended their lead five minutes later though, after Ouattara’s cutback from the right flank allowed the striker to bully his way through the Leeds defence before picking out the bottom corner. The Cherries had restored their two-goal lead, and with less than half an hour to play, they looked set to secure survival.
Neto was put to work soon after though, as Leeds looked to fight back and claim something from the game. The Brazilian ‘keeper first prevented an effort from Marc Roca, before producing a sensational double save to deny Koch’s header and Gnonto’s rebounded effort.
Bournemouth were by far the better side in the contest – as despite Leeds’ bright start, they seemed to have fizzled out as the game went on. As the game headed into injury time, Bournemouth added a cherry to the top of a brilliant performance as Antoine Semenyo found the back of the net from fifteen yards out.
Ultimately, it’s a huge result for Bournemouth – who bring themselves level on points with Chelsea. While they aren’t mathematically safe yet, they’re now ten points clear of the drop zone and their recent form shows they’re more than capable of grinding out great results.
As for Leeds, this may well have been the final nail in their coffin. Javi Gracia’s side have four games left to play, with a trip to the Etihad Stadium followed by a tough home fixture against Newcastle United. They then travel to West Ham’s Olympic Stadium, before hosting Spurs on the final day of the season. It’s hard to see where Leeds will pick up points from any of those fixtures.