Welsh international David Brooks ensured Eddie Howe will sit down to his Christmas dinner with Bournemouth comfortably ensconced in the top half of the Premier League.
A fine finish in each half from the 21-year-old secured all three points for Eddie Howe’s side, who had lost back-to-back league matches before going down 1-0 to Chelsea in the EFL Cup this week.
The former Sheffield United man drilled a 21st-minute effort past Seagulls stopper Mat Ryan to open the scoring, before applying a deft header to Ryan Fraser’s cross 13 minutes from time.
Brighton were unlucky to be behind after a good first-half showing, but they rarely looked likely to get back into the game once Lewis Dunk was sent off with 17 minutes of normal time remaining.
This time last year David Brooks wasn’t anywhere close to being in the Christmas spirit. At a time when he should have been enjoying playing in the Championship for Sheffield United, he was tucked up in bed while suffering with glandular fever.
A year on and it is a completely different story for the 21-year-old, who is getting better and better for Bournemouth in the Premier League. His two goals – and beautifully taken they were too – here against Brighton took his tally to five for the season and gave Eddie Howe his first win in three league games.
Brooks looks like a real bargain
Eddie Howe signed Brooks for £10.6million in the summer, and this was yet another indication of what the young Wales international is capable of even if he is developing at a faster rate than expected.
Brooks’ goals each showcased a very difficult skill that this impressive young winger managed to make look easy. He is fast becoming one of Bournemouth’s most important players.
The former Sheffield United player gave the hosts the lead when he drove through the heart of the visitors’ defence before unleashing a low shot past Albion ‘keeper Mat Ryan and his second-half header then secured all three points as the Cherries claimed just their second win in their last eight Premier League matches.
He was absolutely outstanding all game.
Begovic keeps Brighton at bay
Howe was equally indebted to goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, who made two brilliant first-half saves from Yves Bissouma and Lewis Dunk to stop the visitors from scoring.
“The goalkeeper was really important for us today,” Howe said. “It was a bit of a nervy start to the game, probably as you would expect with the run we have been on and being so desperate for a result.
“He really played his part, stood up and made some great saves and that allowed us to grow into the game.”
Brooks’ first goal was at odds with Brighton’s control over much of the first half, and only another fine sprawling stop from Begovic prevented Dunk from heading in an equaliser before the interval.
Begovic also did well to smother Florin Andone’s goal bound header not long after the restart – although the linesman’s flag was already up for offside.
The Bosnian made two good saves early on and kept Bournemouth ahead at the break with an excellent save from Dunk’s header just before half-time. He dealt with everything calmly while keeping Albion’s crossing threat to a bare minimum.
Hughton’s men can consider themselves a tad unlucky
Manager Chris Hughton left Glenn Murray and Anthony Knockaert on the bench at the Vitality Stadium, but their replacements – Locadia and Andone – caused the home defence numerous problems in the first half.
Locadia, in particular, was unfortunate not to get his name on the scoresheet, his low effort from the edge of the penalty area tipped around the post by Begovic.
Hughton will have been pleased with his team’s display until Dunk’s sending-off, with replays suggesting the 27-year-old may have been unfortunate to be given his marching orders.
They were impressive in patches and in fact started better than the Cherries, but were unlucky to be behind after the first half.
There was some consolation in a well-drilled performance but they were eventually undermined by one defensive error and a red card for Lewis Dunk.
It was far from comfortable, but Bournemouth had to work hard and scored two excellent goals.
Controversial Dunk red leaves Hughton without his preferred centre-back pairing for the holiday fixture congestion
For large parts of the game, Brighton looked the part as one of the Premier League’s new middle class. They had their chances in a strong first-half performance, notably from Yves Bissouma and Dunk, but they sank after their captain was sent off with 20 minutes to go for a second yellow card.
Brooks also played a part in Brighton captain Lewis Dunk getting sent off. Dunk’s first yellow card came when Brooks darted forwards after being set free by Josh King.
Dunk had no choice but to clip the heels of Brook and send him down although it appeared Yves Bissouma got the first contact. Television replays suggested the same, Bissouma committed the foul which led to the set-piece, although referee Mike Dean booked Dunk.
“I’m really pleased with the performance, particularly in that first half,” said Chris Hughton. “It felt tough to come in at 1-0 down. But that’s the game, you have to take your chances.”
“Our query with the sending off is with the first yellow card. Lewis gets booked [for a foul on Brooks] but it’s Bissouma who makes the first contact. It’s incredibly hard on Lewis. That’s our grievance at the moment.”
Dunk’s crude attempt to stop Wilson running away from him left the visitors with little chance of salvaging a result, and his imminent suspension comes at a time when Shane Duffy has been banned for the last three games. Not ideal for Hughton.
Awe-Inspiring Bournemouth continue to overachieve under Howe, but the league position does tell their worth
A run of seven defeats in their last eight games, and no goals scored in their last three, had left Bournemouth feeling a little blue ahead of the Christmas period.
However, this victory over their South Coast rivals means they will be in the top eight of the table come December 25th, which fans would almost certainly have signed on for before the season started.
If the Bournemouth manager continues on his current trajectory, unearthing gems such as David Brooks, the “London suitors” will only continue to covet him incase Pochettino leaves.
What’s next for both?
Bournemouth head to Wembley to take on Tottenham on Boxing Day, while Brighton host Arsenal