Nathan Ake’s first goal for Bournemouth helped the Cherries end a three-match winless run by beating Stoke City 1-0 in the Premier League on Saturday.
The on-loan Chelsea defender, making his first league start of the season, rose unmarked to head the visitors into a deserved lead with what proved to be the winner midway through the first half at the bet365 stadium, where Bojan missed a penalty for Stoke soon after the break.
Wilfried Bony could well have been sent off for the hosts, as referee Roger East invited criticism for making a series of dubious decisions, while Jack Wilshere hit the post late on as Bournemouth tried to make sure of the result.
The narrow win was Bournemouth’s first since thrashing Hull City 6-1 in October and keeping a clean sheet away from home in the Premier League for the first time since February will afford Eddie Howe’s team some welcome confidence ahead of a tough trip to Arsenal next weekend.
Having turned around their poor start to the season in recent weeks, Stoke saw a sequence of six consecutive matches without defeat come to an end, leaving Mark Hughes and his players looking to make amends at Watford next time out.
Bournemouth should have been awarded a penalty in the 11th minute, East and his assistants somehow failing to spot the fact Ryan Shawcross got none of the ball as he brought down Callum Wilson inside the area with the forward clean through.
Stoke goalkeeper Lee Grant kept out Josh King’s shot a minute later following good work in the build-up from Wilson and Wilshere.
The visitors continued to dominate and were rewarded after 25 minutes, as right-back Simon Francis won a questionable free-kick under minimal contact with Erik Pieters.
From the resulting set-piece, swung in by Junior Stanislas, Ake climbed unopposed to open his Cherries account from close range.
The defender rewarded Howe for selecting him in place of the suspended Adam Smith, after not being involved since making two substitute appearances in August.
Stoke enjoyed their first period of sustained pressure late in the half, centre-back Steve Cook called upon to clear a Shawcross header off the line with four minutes to go before the break, as Xherdan Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic also went close.
The hosts missed a golden opportunity to equalise three minutes into the second half, Bojan smashing a penalty against the bar after being awarded a spot-kick under minimal contact from Francis.
Stoke were fortunate not to have Bony dismissed just before the hour mark as the striker, already on a yellow card, escaped punishment for a lunge on Francis.
The home team did at least manage to trouble Bournemouth during the closing stages but they should have done better with their chances, Shaqiri firing over from inside the area under no pressure with 10 minutes to go and substitute Jonathan Walters heading straight at Adam Federici.
Wilshere hit the upright with a curling-range shot in injury time, while, at the other end, some desperate Bournemouth defending was required to clear from a goal-mouth scramble in the 94th minute, Howe’s men breathing a sigh of relief when East finally blew his whistle.
Key Opta stats:
– Four Bournemouth goals in the top flight this season have come from free-kick situations (include direct free-kicks), more than any other side.
– Ake found the back of the net for the first time in his last 15 Premier League games (he has only two in total in 32 appearances in the competition).
– Junior Stanislas has been involved in 11 Premier League goals for the Cherries (6 goals, 5 assists), a joint-high tally along with Josh King (8 goals, 3 assists).
– Bojan’s penalty miss was Stoke’s first failure in their last 14 Premier League spot-kicks, last fluffing their lines from the penalty spot via Jonathan Walters v Liverpool in August 2013.
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