AFC Bournemouth kept their Premier League survival bid well on track with an impressive 2-0 win over south-coast rivals Southampton at Vitality Stadium on Tuesday.
Saints’ victory by the same scoreline in the reverse fixture was their sixth successive match unbeaten against Bournemouth in league competition but Eddie Howe’s men produced a committed display to edge Ronald Koeman’s European hopefuls.
Bournemouth last hosted Southampton five years ago in the third tier but were sent on their way to a first league win over Saints since 1958 when Steve Cook made the most of an unconvincing punch from Fraser Forster to hook home 31 minutes in.
Koeman’s Saints lacked cohesion throughout and were further frustrated when former Bournemouth trialist Charlie Austin and strike partner Shane Long limped off in the second half.
Saints showed signs of life in the final 20 minutes but when the in-form Forster hesitated at a Matt Ritchie free-kick, Benik Afobe sealed the points 11 minutes from time to put further distance between Bournemouth and a possible Championship return, with the Cherries now eight points clear of the drop zone.
Howe was without Junior Stanislas due to injury, Max Gradel given a first start since August following his recovery from knee ligament damage, but Bournemouth were on top early as Ritchie’s strike was saved by Forster a minute in.
Koeman brought Maya Yoshida, James Ward-Prowse and Sadio Mane into Southampton’s rejigged 3-5-2 formation and the visitors’ first effort came soon after as Austin prodded a shot wide inside the area.
Bournemouth won five corners inside the opening 10 minutes but Mane had the next chance for Saints as his effort went over amid cries of an Oriol Romeu handball from Bournemouth.
But when Josh King’s incessant chasing brought a foul from Saints skipper Jose Fonte, Forster failed to deal with a fizzed delivery from Ritchie.
Cook was on hand to angle an effort into the ground and past Forster, with the setback prompting Koeman to replace Yoshida with Steven Davis and revert to a back four prior to half-time.
The first period was cut short after fourth official Kevin Friend suffered a head injury while the restart was also delayed as emergency stand-in Dean Treleaven replaced him on the sidelines.
When play got back under way, Bournemouth continued to cause problems, while Koeman’s men struggled to muster attacking rhythm – an issue not helped by Austin’s injury-enforced withdrawal just before the hour mark.
Graziano Pelle replaced him and the Italian’s cushioned header almost set up an equaliser for Shane Long before the Republic of Ireland international also limped off 20 minutes from time.
Apparent knocks for Harry Arter and King proved the only sore points for Bournemouth, who sealed their win at the most opportune time – Afobe glancing in his fourth goal since arriving in January amid a rare Forster error.
Key Opta stats:
-After keeping six clean sheets in a row this season in the Premier League, Fraser Forster has conceded four goals in his last two games.
-Only Chelsea and Crystal Palace (eight each) have seen more of their goals scored by defenders than Bournemouth (six).
-Five of the Cherries’ last eight Premier League goals have either been scored or assisted by defenders (one goal by Steve Cook, one goal and three assists by Charlie Daniels).
-Benik Afobe has bagged four goals in his eight Premier League games this season.
-Bournemouth have kept consecutive Premier League clean sheets for the first time this season.
-This was only Bournemouth’s third win in their last 11 Premier League home games (D3 L5).
-Ronald Koeman’s players have scored just three goals in their last seven away league games.
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