On a pretty overcast day down on the south coast, Bournemouth, entertained Spanish opposition, Valencia. Bournemouth having cemented their place in the Premier League over the past two seasons, faced a team suffering from indifferent fortunes. The ill fated managerial debut of Gary Neville, still in the minds of some of the fans who had made their way to the Vitality Stadium, hoping for an upturn in recent league form.
The pitch resembled a billiard table, a plush green surface with only the markings to deface its beauty. The home support got the chance to see new, or old, record signing, Nathan Ake, goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, recently acquired from Chelsea, and cult hero, Jermain Defoe. Defoe having played for the Cherries as a fresh faced seventeen year old and going on a record breaking run of 12 goals in 10 starts.
This was Bournemouth’s fourth pre season friendly and their first at home. Three away visits which included Estoril, Portsmouth and Queens Park Rangers, all resulted in wins, 2-1, 2-1 and 1-0 respectively.
As the tannoy announced the return of both Ake and Defoe, the crowd exploded into life. Clearly both players had become crowd favourites, during their first spells at the club. Eddie Howe spending his money wisely this summer, on a quality centre back and a proven goalscorer.
A minutes applause before the game was held for ex Cherries captain, Jimmy White, who sadly passed away over the summer. Bournemouth begun in a very positive manor, probing away at the Valencia defence, trying to carve out openings for lone front man, Defoe. With only three minutes on the clock, opposing centre back, Vezo, clattered into the back go the England forward, to which shouts from the crowd could be heard ” its only a friendly “, clearly in Spain, there is no such thing. Referee, Lee Probert only talked to his man on this occasion.
Now this Valencia team is nothing like the swashbuckling team of the mid 90’s and turn of the century. Years of mismanagement and bad signings, had derailed the clubs elite status in La Liga, but as with all Spanish teams, kept the ball well in tight areas and liked to play it about. A sweeping move after eight minutes saw Javi Jimenez lay the ball out to Rodrigo, who whipped in a delightful ball, only for Soler to foul his man and give Bournemouth a get out.
Valencia were starting to grow into the game, and with a quarter of an hour gone, forced the first corner. Captain and talisman, Dani Parejo, started to control things in the middle. Winning a corner from a deflected shot, the skipper, whipped in a fantastic cross and Javi Jimenez’s header shaved the top of the bar. Eddie Howe, pre season or no pre season, was apoplectic on the sideline, clearly not happy with the teams marking. Shortly after, Valencia won a series of corners, this time Adam Smith making a last ditch tackle on Rodrigo. Begovic, this time using his massive frame, claimed the corner to settle down the home side.
The Spaniards lined up in an old fashioned 4-4-2, with two banks of four, but their movement when in possession, was causing Bournemouth all kinds of problems. Players were rotating positions with a freedom and fearless attitude. Valencia had weathered the early storm and were dominating the ball.
Harry Arter, when Bournemouth were in possession, was holding it all together, and when he sprayed a pass out to Connor Mahoney, a left footer playing on the right, he whipped in a low cross on his weaker foot and Defoe, flashed a first time effort over the bar from twelve yards out, a difficult chance in his defence, but the first real effort on goal for the hosts.
The game was really starting to resemble a stereotypical pre season game in the sun, until both Arter and Gosling, rattled through two opponents in the space of two seconds and woke up the three quarters full stadium. This was followed by some neat play between Defoe, Arter and the impressive Mahoney, but Valencia stood strong and snuffed out the attack, before launching a counter attack of their own. Unfortunately for both sides, a lack of decent touches was spreading all over the pitch.
Joao Cancelo, Valencia’s marauding full back, was causing the home defence a headache. His overlapping runs were catching out full back, Brad Smith, although Nathan Ake was suppling decent cover. This was certainly no flat 4-4-2 from the Spaniards.
Captain Parejo, was in the thick of it again, this time conceding a free kick just on the corner of the box. Ryan Fraser’s teasing ball in was met by Cook, who couldn’t get his effort on target. His header just sailing wide of the post. A let off for the visitors. But just moments later, a sweeping move from Valencia, again spearheaded by Cancelo, saw his cross into the box attacked by two forwards at the same time. A keystone cops moment as both Jimenez and Rodrigo clattered into each other, with the ball squirming away to safety.
As the first half ticked to a close, only a Harry Arter deflected shot, was enough to bring the crowd to its feet. A series of niggly fouls from both sides had stopped the game from gaining any sort of momentum.
Half Time Subs ( Valencia )
- Guam, 7. Nando, 11. Negredo, 22. Mina, 30. Nacho Vidal, 31. Nacho Gil
Replacing 13. Neto, 9. Zaza, 19. Rodrigo, 18. Carlos Soler, 21, Montoya, 29. Jimenez
The rain tumbled from the sky as Lee Probert’s whistle got us back underway. A raft of changes from the visitors, six to be precise, certainly didn’t knock the Spaniards off their stride. Early exchanges in the second half were like something of a keep ball session, and not in a manor in which Eddie Howe would of liked. Valencia played from left to right and back again, spraying the ball into the wide areas for them to find the space in which to attack Bournemouth. Despite their early dominance possession wise, the visitors failed to capitalise. Marcelino, Valencia’s manager, was very animated with his touch line actions, Howe on the other hand, stood with arms folded, watching the game unfold.
Valencia, now growing into the game, had a long range shot by Santi Mina, which skipped off the surface and was palmed away by Begovic. A reminder that Valencia didn’t always need to play their way into dangerous areas. Bournemouth were trying to get out by playing the ball to wingers, Pugh and Mahoney. Pugh, driving at the Valencia defence at every opportunity. But with every home attack, left space for the visitors, a route one pass from skipper, Parejo, set off Nacho Gil, clear and bearing down on goal, only for Steve Cook to make an amazing last ditch block, as the Spaniard let his shot go.
The Cherries first substitution saw Ben Whitfield replace Adam Smith. Whitfield moving into an advanced position to give Defoe some much needed help. The England forward was clearly getting frustrated at his lack of service. Valencia then made two of their own, Orellana and Maksimovic coming on for Medran and Gaya.
Unfortunately for Jermain Defoe, it wasn’t to be on his home return. Replaced on the hour by Ollie Harfield, Defoe will be glad for the minutes under his belt despite only really having one half chance to show for his efforts. Another home replacement saw keeper Asmir Begovic replaced by youngster, Aaron Ramsdale. Ramsdale, fresh from his European Championship win with the England Under 19’s. Begovic had claimed a couple of corners in the first half and saved low to his right early in the half. A good days work.
The glut of substitutions had stifled the game, until Middlesborough and Manchester City old boy, Negredo, played a neat ball inside to Orellana, a Chilean on loan from Celta Vigo, and from around the 20 yard mark, despatched a curling effort into the far top corner past the despairing dive of Ramsdale, who’s first touch of the ball was to pick it out of his net. It was an absolute world of a strike. Cue the Valencian radio presenter behind me screaming… GOLA GOLA GOOOOOOOOOOAL.
0-1 72nd Min
Marcelino had seen enough of his skipper and he too was brought off to rest and replaced by Eugeni. Bournemouth were huffing and puffing, quite literally by this stage, but for every attack that broke down, Valencia came at them with a purpose. The quality of possession was really starting to tell on the legs of the home side. A tired Harry Arter blazed over the bar, shooting from around 25 yards, when it looked like he could no longer run anymore.
The sponsors man of the match was awarded to Nathan Ake, a solid performance from the record signing. Neither side had a stand out player, flashes of brilliance from Parejo, Mahoney, Pugh and Arter, although really they were few and far between.
Bournemouth rallied as the clock ticked down, forcing a succession of corners, although all were easily cleared. A couple of half hearted penalty appeals for the home side, in which Lee Probert waved away, were more in hope then anticipation.
Minutes under the belt for both sides as the full time whistle brought the game to an end. Valencia leave with the victory in a game that either side hardly looked like winning. A wonder goal sealed it, a goal worthy of winning any match.
BFTGT Man of The Match – Asmir Begovic
Claimed every corner after Jimenez’s early scare and his smart save early in the second half, kept his side in the game. A good signing from Eddie Howe.
Eddie Howe sent his assistant, Jason Tindall, to the post match press conference.
Reporter: Despite the result, were you happy with the performance?
JT: At this stage of the season its all about giving players minutes and making sure they are ready for the first game of the season. Valencia kept the ball well and gave us a very good work out. They are very technical, which all teams are at that level. But yeah pleased overall.
Reporter: As Begovic played today, will he be the number one for the opening game away at West Brom?
JT: Of course everyone is fighting for their places at the moment and again its about giving lads minutes over the weeks building up to season starting. Asmir played today, and played very well, he looked very assured and claimed some crosses. Artur ( Boruc ) played yesterday and has done very well for us over the last couple of seasons so places are most definitely up for grabs.
Reporter: How pleased were you with Jermain Defoe this afternoon?
JT: Jermain did well today, although we never quite got as much service into him as we would of liked, his hold up and link play was very good.
Reporter: Will Max Gradel feature in the squad over the coming weeks?
JT: Max has as much chance of playing as any of the other lads in the squad.
Reporter: What are Bournemouth’s ambitions for the coming season?
JT: To keep progressing and to stay in this league. Its not easy and there are some good teams in there, so we need to work hard to be where we want to be.
BFTGT: Jason, you broke the clubs transfer record with the signing of Nathan Ake, a huge sum for a club of this size. Did it make the signing easier, knowing that you already knew the player, and the player already knew the club and Eddie Howe’s philosophy?
JT: Of course, Nathan is a great lad and a top top footballer. He can also play in a variety of positions , which for a club like this can be invaluable. His performance today was like he had never been away.
Bournemouth should manage another season of consolidation. With the impressive Begovic, Ake and goalscorer, Defoe, the spine of the team is in good shape. Eddie Howe will no doubt look to see if he can strengthen his side. I predict an 11th – 17th place finish. I am sure Eddie Howe would take that right now.
AFC Bournemouth – Starting Line Up 4-2-3-1
27. Asmir Begovic
3. Steve Cook
4. Dan Gosling
5. Nathan Ake
7. Marc Pugh
8. Harry Arter
14. Brad Smith
15. Adam Smith
18. Jermain Defoe
23. Connor Mahoney
24. Ryan Fraser
Subs: 12. Ramsdale, 6. Cornick, 16. Whitfield, 19. Worthington, 22. Harfield, 31. Surridge, 33. Butcher, 38. Simpson.
Valencia C.F – Starting Line Up 4-4-2
2. Joao Cancelo
9. Simone Zaza
10. Dani Parejo
14. Jose Gaya
18. Carlos Soler
21. Martin Montoya
29. Javi Jimenez
Subs: 1. Juame, 4. Eugeni, 6. Maksimovic, 7. Nando, 11. Alvaro Negredo, 15. Orellana, 22. Santi Mina, 23. Aymen Abdennour, 30. Nacho Vidal, 31. Nacho Gil, 32. Centelles.