by Dan Davis (@dan_davis20)
Bournemouth ensured a fourth consecutive season in the Premier League with a 1-0 victory over relegation-threatened Swansea City.
In Cherries’ final home game of the campaign, Ryan Fraser’s deflected effort on 37 minutes proved the difference between the two sides – an unfortunate deflection off Alfie Mawson helping guide the Scottish international’s strike past Lukasz Fabianski.
The victory takes Cherries to 41 points for the season, and keeps the Dorset club’s hopes of another top half finish alive, ahead of a final day clash at high-flying Burnley.
Cherries boss Eddie Howe made two changes after the defeat at Southampton last weekend – experienced winger Marc Pugh replaced Lys Mousset, who was named among the substitutes, and Andrew Surman was fielded alongside Lewis Cook in midfield.
Dutch star Nathan Ake started in a four-man defence, just a day after being named Cherries supporters’ player of the year and having been awarded the Dorset club’s player of the month accolade seven times this campaign.
Carlos Carvalhal made three switches to his relegation threatened Swansea side. Kyle Naughton dropped out of the visitors’ matchday squad entirely, with Federico Fernandez recalled. Tom Carroll and Nathan Dyer also returned for the Welsh outfit, Andy King and Sam Clucas were instead named on the bench.
Cherries burst out of the blocks from the first whistle, and presented Callum Wilson with two sights of goal in quick succession. The home side cleverly worked the ball to the striker, whose surging run into the penalty area was crowded out by Swansea’s five-man defence. The returning Pugh then looked to slot through Wilson once again, but Alfie Mawson timed his slide to perfection and scrambled clear.
Wilson’s penetrating runs in behind evidently stretched the visitors’ defence, with wingers Josh King and Pugh attempting to make use of the space. The latter was released into the penalty area after a clever ball through the Welsh side’s defence, but was flagged offside after a cool, low finish beyond Lukasz Fabianski.
The frantic opening period continued, with Swansea also carving out their own opportunities. Ki Sung-Yeung swung in a delivery into the penalty area, which was met by Mawson. The centre-half steered his header to Fernandez, who in turn played across goal for Mike van der Hoorn, but the Dutch defender was superbly denied by a sprawling Asmir Begovic.
Cherries failed to scramble away, and the Bosnian shot stopper had to be alert seconds later to block Dyer’s close range toe poke.
Mawson then steered an unchallenged header over the crossbar, before as the visitors looked to record a crucial three points in their scrap for survival. But on 16 minutes, Cherries should have edged in front. The ever-dangerous Fraser picked up the ball on the right touchline, before swinging a pin point delivery across the face of goal. Wilson arrived at the far post, but could only guide his effort wide with the goal at his mercy.
Swansea’s two sibling attackers, Jordan and Andre Ayew, combined on 25 minutes, but the former could only head off target after escaping the attentions of Steve Cook and meeting the floated delivery.
Ten minutes before half time, the end to end action was finally punctuated with a goal. Mawson’s clumsy challenge on King on the edge of the box was penalised, and, despite claims for a penalty, referee Kevin Friend awarded Cherries a free-kick. Andrew Surman and Nathan Ake stood poised over the set piece, but it was the midfielder who played the ball short to Fraser – the diminutive Scot applying the finish from 20 yards.
But five minutes before half time, Swansea should have been on level terms. A clever series of passes on the outskirts of Cherries’ box resulted in Andre Ayew delicately lofting a pass to his brother, Jordan. The 26-year-old span towards goal, but could only spurn a guilt-edged chance over the bar from six yards.
The visitors emerged from the interval at a frenetic pace, Tom Carroll forcing Begovic to fly across his goal line and claw the ball behind just a minute after the restart.
Cherries then flooded forward on the counter with King, whose cross was collected under pressure by Fabianski with Wilson poised to pull the trigger. From another set piece, Fraser’s looping ball looked set to drop into the far corner, before the visitors’ Polish stop stopper intervened and palmed over the bar.
A prolonged flurry of chances continued to see both teams come close at either end. Firstly, Fernandez’s goal-bound header fell through a crowd of bodies before being hacked off the line by Lewis Cook, then Steve Cook nodded King’s cross off target as Cherries searched for a second.
Skipper Simon Francis then rifled a drive over the bar after being teed up by Pugh, with Carroll guiding a shot narrowly wide after impressive hold-up play from substitute striker Tammy Abraham.
Into the final quarter of the game, Cherries twice went close to wrapping up the points. Lewis Cook’s corner was guided towards goal by Wilson at point blank range, but Fabianski’s handling on the line was superb.
Dan Gosling was then introduced into the fray by Eddie Howe, but his first sight of goal resulted in a tame effort that Fabianski comfortably collected at the foot of the upright.
On 84 minutes, Cherries went close once again – Fraser superbly spearheaded a counter into the Swansea half and spread play out wide to King. The Norwegian then drove a centre to Wilson, but the ex-Coventry hitman’s strike from six yards was superbly deflected over the crossbar by Fabianski at full stretch.
Deep into stoppage time, Lys Mousset and Tyrone Mings were introduced, the latter’s first appearance since a serious injury picked up in September. In the last chance of the game, Mousset curled an effort narrowly wide of the far corner, before the full-time whistle rang around a sunny Vitality Stadium and confirmed Premier League football will be returning to Bournemouth again next season.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Steve Cook (Bournemouth)
Bournemouth: Begovic, Fraser, S. Cook, Francis, Ake, Daniels, L. Cook, Surman, King (Mousset, 90+1), Pugh (Gosling, 78), Wilson (Mings, 90+4)
Unused substitutes: Boruc, B. Smith, Ibe, Defoe
Swansea: Fabianski, Roberts, van der Hoorn (King, 72), Mawson, Fernandez, Olsson, Carroll, Ki (Narsingh, 78), Dyer (Abraham, 59), A. Ayew, J. Ayew
Unused substitutes: Nordfeldt, Rangel, Clucas, Sanches