by Dan Davis (@dan_davis20)
Josh King’s late leveller rescued a point for the Cherries, who all but ensured Premier League survival after a 2-2 stalemate with Crystal Palace.
The relegation-threatened visitors took the lead early into the second half when Luka Milivojevic curled a superb free-kick into the top corner, before Bournemouth equalised through substitute Lys Mousset just after the hour mark.
A moment of magic from Wilfried Zaha edged the Eagles back into the lead, but King’s equaliser in the 89th minute hauled the Cherries level at 2-2 – the same result from the reverse at Selhurst Park in December.
Cherries boss Eddie Howe made three changes to the side that drew 2-2 at Watford last weekend. A last-gasp leveller from Jermain Defoe at Vicarage Road saw the veteran striker handed a start against Palace, alongside returning captain Simon Francis and Marc Pugh.
Dropping out the starting XI were Junior Stanislas, after the in-form winger’s knee ligament damage ruled him out for the rest of the season, Jordon Ibe and Josh King. The Norwegian frontman was named among the substitutes along with youngsters Jack Simpson and Kyle Taylor, while Ibe missed out on the matchday squad altogether.
Crystal Palace sported two changes after their home defeat to Liverpool. James Tomkins was restored to the centre of defence, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek also handed a start. Martin Kelly dropped to the bench, whilst Christian Benteke missed out on the trip to the south coast through injury.
The Cherries have notoriously started off sluggishly at the Vitality in recent weeks, but surged out of the blocks against the Eagles and should have opened the scoring within the opening minute. A drilled delivery across the penalty area from Charlie Daniels was met by the sliding Callum Wilson inches in front of the back post, but the striker could only guide an effort narrowly wide.
The early pressure from Bournemouth continued, with Defoe next to squander an opening. Ryan Fraser’s cross from the right found the ex-Tottenham frontman, who could only scuff a weak effort into the palms of Wayne Hennessey.
Dan Gosling then whipped the ball across the face of goal after six minutes, but both Wilson and Defoe were narrowly unable to make contact and stab the Cherries into a deserved early lead.
Crystal Palace finally responded after a slow start, and should have made the breakthrough after 22 minutes. Loftus-Cheek was released in behind Francis, and the Chelsea loanee played the ball back across the penalty area for the waiting James McArthur. But as the midfielder let fly, Nathan Ake superbly blocked the strike and the Cherries were able to clear.
A shade before the half hour mark, and Zaha and Lewis Cook were embroiled in a bizarre altercation. Fraser’s corner was cleared as far as Cook who attempted to skip past his opponent, only for Zaha to halt the run of the England international and appear to drag him partially across the turf after a tangle of legs. Referee Jonathan Moss surprisingly kept his cards pocketed.
Two minutes later, and another opening fell Wilson’s way. Fraser dug out a delivery once again, but the ex-Coventry hitman could only cushion a volley narrowly over Hennessey’s crossbar. Francis then took his turn to surge forward, and Pugh headed the resultant cross comfortably off target at the back post.
Palace full-back Patrick van Aanholt then chanced his arm twice in quick succession; the first a venomous strike that was headed behind for a corner, and the second a bending effort that whistled the wrong side of the woodwork.
Defoe then looked to extend his impressive scoring rate against the Eagles, having landed a brace in each of his last three appearances against Crystal Palace, but couldn’t sort his footwork out when teed up by Fraser’s delicate clipped pass.
In one final chance before the half-time interval, Wilson connected poorly with a volley 12 yards out and sliced the effort well wide of goal.
But after a first half summed up by missed chances, Crystal Palace took the lead with their first effort after the break. The visitors earned a free-kick 20 yards from goal after Defoe appeared to clip Yohan Cabaye narrowly outside the penalty area, and Milivojevic extended his impressive set-piece conversation rate with a sublime finish that flashed into Begovic’s far corner.
The Cherries looked to immediately respond through Pugh and Lewis Cook, but both players were superbly denied by a duo of low, plunging interventions from Welsh international Hennessey.
Despite the brief flurry of chances for Bournemouth, Crystal Palace should have moved two goals in front on 52 minutes. A dangerously high line from the home side was exposed by the visitors, but van Aanholt’s close range effort was superbly smothered by Begovic.
Andros Townsend then took centre stage, the former Tottenham winger helping carve out two more openings for the visitors. Townsend collected possession just inside the Cherries’ penalty area, cleverly created a yard of space, and got a shot away that was blocked by a sliding Cook. Then, on the hour mark, Townsend instigated a rapid Eagles breakaway and offloaded cleverly to the ever dangerous Zaha. The other half of the makeshift forward line for the visitors cut inside past Daniels with ease and saw a strike beaten away by Begovic.
Ake, Cherries’ player of the month for March, then inadvertently gifted the Londoners with another scoring chance. A woeful back pass was pounced upon by Townsend, who raced towards the penalty area with Zaha in support. But just as it looked as though Palace would tuck home their second, a combination of the recovering Dutchman and Cook shepherded the danger well.
Eddie Howe made his first two substitutions after 62 minutes, with Mousset and King replacing Wilson and Pugh. And just three minutes later, the changes paid dividends when the former fired Bournemouth level. Fraser teed up Mousset narrowly outside the penalty area, and the Frenchman drilled low into the net – his second league goal of the campaign.
Crystal Palace then looked to immediately regain their lead, with Zaha a prime candidate to score in every foray forward. And, after enduring a difficult afternoon following tussles with Cook and Francis, the Eagles’ frontman fired the visitors in front once again with a moment of sheer brilliance.
Zaha delicately skipped away from attempted challenges from Cook and Fraser, before pirouetting away from the attentions of Gosling. Then, as the target opened up, the 25-year-old lashed into the top corner via a deflection off Cook.
In one final roll of the dice, Andrew Surman was introduced in place of Lewis Cook as the Cherries looked to regain control of proceedings.
Mousset steered a header off target after fine work from Fraser earned the home side a corner, before Begovic superbly clawed away a deflected strike that seemed destined to nestle into the back of the net.
But just as it looked as though the Cherries would be denied any points, in the 89th minute Ake earned Bournemouth another corner after a low delivery across the turf was stabbed behind by Mamadou Sakho. From the resultant set piece, Steve Cook flicked the ball towards the far upright and substitute King was on hand to tuck neatly past Hennessey.
Fraser then narrowly bent a free kick over the crossbar in the game’s final piece of action, meaning that the spoils were shared after more late heroics from the Cherries, who underlined their firm status as the Premier League’s comeback kings.
Bournemouth: Begovic, Francis, S. Cook, Ake, Daniels, Pugh (Mousset), L. Cook (Surman), Gosling, Fraser, Wilson (King), Defoe
Unused substitutes: Boruc, Simpson, Taylor, B. Smith
Crystal Palace: Hennessey, Wan-Bissaka, Tomkins, Sakho, van Aanholt, McArthur, Cabaye, Milivojevic, Loftus-Cheek, Townsend, Zaha
Unused substitutes: Cavalieri, Lee, Souare, Fosu-Mensah, Kelly, Riedewald, Daly