Goals from Dan Gosling, Charlie Daniels and recent signing Benik Afobe secured AFC Bournemouth a straightforward 3-0 victory over fellow strugglers Norwich City at the Vitality Stadium.
Eddie Howe’s men were in full control virtually from the outset and richly deserved what was their most convincing Premier League win to date, leapfrogging Norwich in the process to boost their chances of top-flight survival.
The visitors never recovered from Gosling’s 10th-minute opener and remain precariously just above the drop zone. Daniels added a second from the penalty spot nine minutes into the second half after Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe had brought down Marc Pugh.
And Afobe put the seal on a significant three points 15 minutes from time when he netted his first goal for the club following his big-money move from Wolves earlier this month, with Bournemouth ending a four-game winless league streak.
The build-up to the game had been dominated by the prospect of Lewis Grabban lining up again for the Dorset side just days after rejoining them from Norwich, but illness ruled the striker out of action, while Gary O’Neil was unavailable for the visitors having seen red against Stoke City in midweek.
Bournemouth were also denied the services of key man Matt Ritchie, who had failed to recover from a dead leg, but with Pugh and Daniels rampaging down the flanks, they were still far too strong for Alex Neil’s men.
Bournemouth began the brighter, with Afobe and Junior Stanislas both threatening the Norwich goal before Gosling broke the deadlock.
Pugh, who had been preferred to new loan signing Juan Manuel Iturbe on the left wing, delivered an inswinging cross and having timed his late run to perfection, Gosling thumped a close-range header past Declan Rudd.
The hosts continued to dominate as the first half progressed, with Gosling’s left-foot curler flashing just over after 20 minutes and the lively Daniels having a strong penalty appeal waved away after he went to ground under a challenge from Russell Martin.
Harry Arter was the next to try his luck for the home side, bending a 25-yard effort just over and the Republic of Ireland international midfielder was also involved in a highly contentious moment just before the break.
It was his throughball that released Afobe, who was brought down by the onrushing Rudd just outside the box.
The home fans were screaming for the Norwich goalkeeper to be shown a red card, but with defenders covering and Afobe’s touch seemingly taking him away from goal, only a yellow was forthcoming. Stanislas fired the resulting free-kick high over.
Bournemouth began the second half in a similar vein, Pugh weaving his way through the Norwich defence only to be foiled by a smart save from the overworked Rudd. But the hosts were not to be denied a second as seconds after his header had been cleared off the line by Martin, Pugh was brought down in the box by Odjidja-Ofoe.
Daniels stepped up and found the bottom corner via the post from the spot to leave Norwich with a mountain to climb.
Not that they ever looked likely to do so as Stanislas went close to increasing his side’s lead just after the hour and Steve Cook drew another fine save from Rudd with a glancing header moments later.
Dieumerci Mbokani was then gifted a fantastic chance to hand the visitors a lifeline, but his attempted chipped finish was a poor one and summed up an afternoon to forget for Neil’s men.
And having survived that scare, Afobe made the game safe for the hosts, neatly volleying home another superb low cross from Daniels to open his Bournemouth account.
Key Opta stats:
– Bournemouth have scored more goals in the opening 15 minutes of Premier League games (7) than any other side this season.
– Norwich are still the only Premier League side yet to keep a clean sheet away from home this season.
– Dan Gosling has scored three goals in the Premier League this season, his best tally in a single PL campaign.
– Norwich City have conceded a league-high 14 goals from crosses this season.