All of a sudden, Bournemouth are a mid-table team again. Having failed to register a single win in 2017, they have now notched two in a row, leapfrogging the likes of Watford and Burnley in the process. Fears of relegation had begun to foster on the south coast, but they looked largely premature on Saturday night.
The same cannot be said for Swansea, where the jitters show no sign of dissipating. Paul Clement’s side sit just one place above the bottom three, and there was little here to suggest they will be able to avoid the traditional end-of-season dogfight as they were undone by goals in either half from Bournemouth’s Benik Afobe, though the first could end up being classed as an Alfie Mawson own goal.
There have certainly been improvements since Clement’s arrival, but consecutive defeats by Hull and now Bournemouth have robbed them of their momentum.
Afobe’s brace comes after a hat-trick from strike partner Josh King against West Ham last week, and Howe’s forwards could not have picked a better time to find some form. Equally, Swansea’s defenders could not have picked a worse time to go missing, and they will need to regroup ahead of a crucial trip to Middlesbrough after the international break.
For Bournemouth there was still no place for Jack Wilshere, omitted from the England squad again this week, despite injury to Harry Arter. Howe’s decision to leave Wilshere out, in favour of Andrew Surman, appears to effectively make the on-loan Arsenal man the fourth-choice central midfielder on the south coast.
He certainly was not missed in the opening exchanges here, as Bournemouth started brightly and came closest to opening the scoring through Ryan Fraser, who dragged a shot wide from the edge of the box.
Swansea found a foothold soon enough, though, and could have taken the lead when the ball fell to the usually reliable Gylfi Sigurdsson, but he ballooned his volleyed effort well over. Bournemouth’s in-form striker Josh King then nearly turned a Sigurdsson free-kick into his own net as Paul Clement’s side momentarily took control of proceedings.
But that was not to last for long, as Bournemouth snuck into the lead. A mix-up at the back allowed Afobe into shooting range, and his strike took a sharp deflection off Mawson before trickling past the wrong-footed and utterly helpless Lukasz Fabianski in the Swansea goal.
To precisely no-one’s surprise, it was Sigurdsson who responded quickest for Swansea. His long-range strike came out of nothing but still needed to be smartly turned around the post by Bournemouth’s Artur Boruc.
After the break, only a despairing challenge from Steve Cook prevented Swansea substitute Wayne Routledge from tucking home an equaliser.
It turned out to be a crucial intervention, as minutes later Afobe wriggled clear in the box and slid a fine finish past Fabianski to secure three deserved points for Bournemouth.
Full time: Bournemouth 2-0 Swansea
The final whistle blows at Vitality Stadium.
Average touch positions (full time)
Bournemouth have doubled their lead, and it's Benik Afobe with the goal to make it 2-0.
Second half: Bournemouth 1-0 Swansea
We're back under way at Vitality Stadium.
Half time: Bournemouth 1-0 Swansea
The teams head in at the break at Vitality Stadium.
Average touch positions (half time)
1-0! The opening goal goes the way of Bournemouth and it's Benik Afobe who scores it.
Swansea have their first sight of goal
Swansea respond to the earlier Bournemouth effort with their first shot of the game.
Kick off: Bournemouth vs Swansea
They're off and running at Vitality Stadium.