by Dan Davis (@dan_davis20)
Ryan Fraser was the star of the show after his double helped AFC Bournemouth to a crucial 2-1 win over Everton and ended the Cherries’ nine match winless streak.
The Scot sealed the three points on the verge of second-half stoppage time, when he exchanged passes with Adam Smith before firing an effort that looped off Michael Keane and into Jordan Pickford’s far corner.
Fraser had also opened the scoring after a scrappy first-half, when he latched onto Josh King’s delivery and volleyed home expertly.
Despite Everton’s equaliser after Steve Cook’s error, the Cherries ground out a crucial three points and rose up to 13th place before the New Year’s Day clash with Brighton.
Eddie Howe elected for the same line-up that started the 3-3 draw with West Ham United on Boxing Day, after Callum Wilson’s controversial stoppage time intervention earned the Dorset club a well-earned point.
Charlie Daniels and Harry Arter provided a much needed boost to a depleted Cherries squad, returning to the bench after injury lay-offs.
Sam Allardyce opted for four changes after Everton’s goalless stalemate with West Brom, with Yannick Bolasie, Mason Holgate, Ashley Williams and Tom Davies making way for Phil Jagielka, James McCarthy, Idrissa Gueye and Aaron Lennon. Wayne Rooney also returned to the match day squad after illness.
The Cherries created the earliest opening, when Fraser was tugged back by Morgan Schneiderlin and earned a free kick just outside the area. The Scot delivered towards the back post but Steve Cook could only head comfortably over the crossbar.
Smith then gave away the ball to Lennon just outside the home side’s box, but recovered superbly to rob back possession as the Everton winger looked to pull the trigger.
Francis and Smith combined once again on the overlap, before the Cherries worked the ball out to Jordon Ibe. The former Liverpool man lofted in a delivery for Francis, but the skipper’s ball back in drifted out of danger.
Gylfi Sigurdsson released Lennon into the penalty area minutes later, but Smith superbly marshalled the danger before hacking clear.
The Cherries then carved out the game’s first guilt-edged chance. Wilson received Smith’s throw-in, before spinning expertly past both Keane and Jagielka. But as the angle opened up, the front man could only fire at Pickford who parried away with ease.
Ibe was the next player in red and black to pose a danger to the Everton backline, after he was allowed space to surge forward and let fly an effort that was blocked.
On the half hour mark Ibe was given time to race towards the penalty area again, and just when the Everton centre-halves looked to have closed him down the Cherries winger fired towards the near post, which had Pickford scrambling to parry behind.
Everton struggled to provide service for Dominic Calvert-Lewin throughout the first half, and when the young Englishman did receive a ball in from Cuco Martina he could only glance a header well wide of Asmir Begovic’s far upright.
A minute later, the Cherries took a deserved lead.
Wilson robbed McCarthy of possession just inside the Everton half before picking out King’s run down the right side. The Norwegian international drilled in a low cross that Fraser cooly hooked across Pickford and into the far corner.
Everton fashioned out a presentable chance to equalise soon after, when Calvert-Lewin seized upon Smith’s weak back pass. The towering striker found Lennon who looked to be bearing down on goal, but Begovic narrowed the angles expertly and Dan Gosling stole in to clear for a corner.
The set-piece was whipped towards the penalty spot, and Schneiderlin guided his header well over.
Howe’s lengthy list of injury absentees was added to when King went down after 38 minutes, and had to be replaced by Benik Afobe.
The Toffees pressed for a leveller before half-time, and were almost gifted it by Lewis Cook after the England international’s pass was cut out. However, as Niasse looked set to be played through Fraser tracked back brilliantly and blocked the pass.
Sam Allardyce introduced Wayne Rooney at half-time in place of James McCarthy, and the former Manchester United man almost made an instant impact.
Sigurdsson poked a ball through to the substitute, who saw his effort smothered by Begovic at the front post despite Simon Beck flagging for offside.
Francis then burst past Martina on the left side before crossing for Wilson on the penalty spot. The forward slipped as he got his shot away and the ball rolled harmlessly wide.
Oumar Niasse was then thrown on for the quiet Calvert-Lewin, and played a crucial role in setting up Everton’s leveller.
The usually reliable Cook then looked to build up a move from the back, but a poor pass was latched onto by Sigurdsson. The former Swansea man found the feet of Niasse, who touched on to Gueye and the Senegalese made no mistake in burying past Begovic to equalise.
The Cherries almost immediately edged back in front on the hour mark. Another trademark foray down the touchline from Fraser resulted in a pull-back for Wilson, and only a terrific plunging stop from Pickford prevented the ex-Coventry man from getting on the scoresheet for a second week running.
Afobe nearly fashioned a shooting opportunity of his own, after spinning through Keane and Jagielka. However, the hulking forward was betrayed by his final touch and Pickford rushed out to collect before the trigger could be pulled.
Yannik Bolasie was introduced into the fray for the final 20 minutes, and ballooned an effort into the stands moments later after being teed up 25 yards out.
Howe’s side continued to press for a winner, and Wilson forced Pickford’s reflexes into action at his near post. The English shot-stopper passed the test comfortably, collecting at the second attempt.
Ibe then let fly twice, and came so close to finding the back of the net. Firstly, he forced Pickford into another save when drilling in an effort from just outside the box. The second attempt came so close to true brilliance, as he danced onto his left foot and bent a curler that smacked against the top of the upright and away.
The Toffees almost punished Bournemouth for the missed chances, after a lightning break away. Bolasie shepherded possession across for Sigurdsson at the back post, but Ake capped off another dominating performance by racing in to block the shot superbly.
Just when it looked like all three points had slipped away from Howe’s side once again, Fraser stole the headlines.
Afobe’s spurned chance deep into stoppage time would have wrapped up a dogged performance from Bournemouth, but the Cherries held out resolutely to pick up the three points and escape the drop zone.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Ryan Fraser (Bournemouth)
Bournemouth: Begovic, Francis, Ake, S. Cook, Smith, Fraser, Gosling, L. Cook, Ibe, King, Wilson
Subs: Boruc, Pugh, Arter, Afobe, Daniels, Mousset, Simpson
Everton: Pickford, Kenny, Keane, Jagielka, Martina, Schneiderlin, McCarthy, Gueye, Sigurdsson, Lennon, Calvert-Lewin
Subs: Robles, Williams, Bolasie, Rooney, Niasse, Davies, Holgate
Referee: Lee Probert