The Cherries thrased the Seagulls to leave them staring nervously over their shoulder at the relegation zone.
Brighton crashed to their worst ever home defeat in the Premier league to leave them in serious contention for the last relegation spot alongside Cardiff City, whom they face on Tuesday evening in what could determine who stays up and who goes down. Goals from Dan Gosling, Ryan Fraser, David Brooks, Callum Wilson and Junior Stanislas secured a thumping win for the visitors.
Chris Hughton’s side were the team in control throughout the opening 30 minutes, but a rare breakaway for Bournemouth saw them take the lead through midfielder Gosling, who converted a simple team move that left the hosts with egg on their face.
A Bournemouth side who had won just once since their 4-0 victory over Chelsea at the end of January inflicted Brighton’s heaviest defeat since moving to the Amex in 2011. Anthony Knockaert was shown a straight red card for a reckless challenge that completed a miserable afternoon for both the Frenchman and his manager.
The scoreline was a fair reflection of their abject performance as Hughton minced no words and acknowledged in his post-match comments that they will be up against it.
“It’s not something we have experienced before. It was our worst result ever,” he said. “There is no doubt they know how poor the performance was today. Now we will be looking to see the type of reaction we will get from them against a Cardiff team who will be highly motivated.”
Albeit five points ahead with a game in hand, Brighton have the tougher run-in than their relegation rivals Cardiff, which could get harder if they produce a similarly scattered performance against the Welsh outfit on Tuesday
Howe has its hands full in keeping Ryan Fraser at the Vitality
Ryan Fraser was just 16-years-old when he broke into the Aberdeen first team in the autumn of 2010, and the thought of those days still bring a smile to his face, standing on the side of the pitch at the Vitality Stadium in Bournemouth where the morning paper is speculating for the umpteenth day in a row about the grave implications of a suggested move to Arsenal in the summer.
At 25, he is entering his peak years and could well take Sadio Mane’s rise to the top at Liverpool as an example to follow. The Scotland International once again had a stellar showing on the south coast to help his side open a 13 point gap above the relegation zone, having a helping hand in almost every single one of their attacks and picking up two assists.
Fraser’s goal in the second half was the jewel in his performance, firing a 20-yard strike over Brighton’s Mat Ryan to score a memorable goal.
Fraser says he is honoured to be linked with such a big club (Arsenal), but he is trying to forget about it for now. The chat first surfaced a couple of days before Bournemouth played Leicester (a 2-0 defeat) and continued into the week of their last game (a 3-1 loss to Burnley).
“Maybe it hasn’t helped,” he says. “Subconsciously, you might think about it. I’m just trying to get on with my work. Every player says that. The best thing I can do is play well.”
Worrying signs for Brighton ahead of a make or break run-in
With Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester City to come in three of Brighton’s final four fixtures, Hughton had insisted this week that he wanted to ensure safety before the end of the month. He could not have wished for much better opponents with Bournemouth having lost 11 of their last 12 matches on the road in all competitions. Yet having been outfought in the home defeat by Burnley last week, Eddie Howe was given the response he had demanded with an impressive start that could easily have seen the visitors take the lead twice through Callum Wilson and Josh King before Gosling struck.
There aren’t many positives to take for the Seagulls heading into their next game, and fans know that getting points on the board must take priority at the stage of the season to avoid spending the summer preparing for life in the Championship.
Impressive FA Cup Semi-Final performance seems to have taken its toll on Brighton
Chris Hughton’s Seagulls made a real fist of their semi-final at Wembley last week, but it seems to have come at a price. The Brighton defence and midfield were run ragged by the Cherries’ attack. Brighton struggled to find any attacking flow, but the same couldn’t be said for the visitors, who were classy and clinical on the break. It was 2-0 on 54 minutes. King raced clear and his pass was lobbed over Ryan by Fraser.
“In the end it was about keeping that score down. The fear is – it could have been worse,” said Hughton. If Brighton’s run to the last four of the FA Cup had taken their minds off their league position for a short while, this performance and result will have brought reality crashing back.
Scoring goals has been their problem all season, with just 17 in their last 15 league matches at the Amex.
But while Brighton won plaudits for their resilience against Manchester City at Wembley last time out, manager Chris Hughton saw his side give Bournemouth time and space to repeatedly cut through their defence even when they still had 11 players on the pitch.
Bournemouth can ‘unofficially’ go on the safety beach now
Heading into this weekend, Bournemouth just one win since the end of January and that came at basement club Huddersfield Town. But Saturday’s results mean they are all but mathematically safe. A vastly inferior goal difference means Cardiff City would have to win all of their remaining five games to end up ahead of Bournemouth. Brighton have a game in hand on Cardiff, but a gap of five points means they can ill afford a fifth consecutive defeat in all competitions when the sides meet in midweek.
Consistency has been the key challenge for Eddie Howe’s men in the last few weeks, and the Bournemouth manager was clear with his words in his post-match press conference
“The frustrating thing for us is finding that consistency. We attacked with devastating intent at times. It’s a really good win but the longer-term thing is finding that consistency.
“We’re pleased with some of the goals we scored today. We countered with devastating effect in the second half, so I’m really pleased.
“We restricted them to only a few chances and we know if we can do that to teams then we can hurt them.
“We’ve been hesitating and spluttering in recent weeks so it’s good to get back into the groove and show what we can do.”
Fraser and Wilson partnership reminiscent of Premier League elites
Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson have assisted each other for 11 Premier League goals this season, the most goal combinations by a duo in a single campaign since Alan Shearer and Mike Newell in 1995-96 (also 11).
While Wilson has been involved in five goals in his three league appearances against Brighton at the Amex stadium, netting three and assisting two, his favourite winger has scored seven and assisted 12 goals in the Premier League this season, the most goal involvements by a Scottish player in a single campaign since Charlie Adam in 2010/11 (20).
All of Bournemouth’s swashbuckling attack were worthy of a mention and while the England striker claimed a pair of assists before doing what he does best to round off a complete performance, Fraser made four key passes and two of those ended with goals.
The well worked opening goal showed how the usually leaky Cherries’ defence had absorbed the Brighton forward thrusts allowing for increased space in the opposite direction. The second, third, fourth and fifth goals were shining lights of the trademark free-flowing football that brought Bournemouth to the Premier League, and kept them there.
What’s next for both?
Cardiff’s visit to the Amex Stadium on Tuesday is likely to go a long way in deciding which of them drop down to the Championship alongside Huddersfield and Fulham, the latter being Bournemouth’s next opponents at the Vitality Stadium next weekend.