Honours even in Vitality Stadium thriller
- Andre Marriner
Marcos Alonso's late leveller denied AFC Bournemouth a potentially-priceless three points as honours finished even from a pulsating clash at Vitality Stadium.
Alonso scored with a header five minutes from time – adding to his ferocious first-half opener – as a sustained spell of pressure from the Londoners finally told.
It broke the Cherries' brave resistance after they had fought back from going behind to forge ahead thanks to goals from Jefferson Lerma and Joshua King in the space of three second-half minutes.
Although the Cherries made a bright start, Alonso, sent off in Chelsea’s Champions League defeat by Bayern Munich on Tuesday, fired the visitors ahead in the 33rd minute.
The Spain international gave Aaron Ramsdale no chance when he rifled home emphatically from an acute angle at the far post after Olivier Giroud’s flick-on had come back off the crossbar.
However, despite trailing at the break, Eddie Howe’s team staged a stirring second-half comeback and took the lead thanks to quickfire goals early in the second period.
Lerma’s thumping header from Ryan Fraser’s corner made it 1-1 after 54 minutes before King swept home Jack Stacey’s cross to put the Cherries in front.
But Alonso levelled late on when he reacted quickest and pounced on the loose ball after Ramsdale had parried Pedro’s rasping drive.
Nathan Ake, Lerma, Lewis Cook and Ryan Fraser all returned to the Cherries starting line-up as boss Eddie Howe made four changes.
They replaced Simon Francis, Harry Wilson, Dan Gosling and Andrew Surman with Lewis Cook starting his first Premier League game since New Year’s Day.
Chelsea’s leading goalscorer Tammy Abraham was ruled out due to injury and Giroud, a World Cup winner with France in 2018, started up front for the visitors.
The Cherries made an encouraging start and were denied by a fine reaction save from Chelsea goalkeeper Willy Caballero after just four minutes.
A lovely move down the right flank saw Fraser set Jack Stacey free and, after he had picked out Phil Billing, the Dane’s effort from close range was superbly blocked by the goalkeeper.
Billing then dispossessed defender Fikayo Tomori and found himself in on goal, only to fire narrowly wide of the target.
Aaron Ramsdale had to be on his toes to push away a shot from Mason Mount which bounced awkwardly in front of the Cherries goalkeeper.
But as the hosts created another opening inside the first ten minutes, Caballero saved one-handed from Callum Wilson after the striker had been teed up by Joshua King.
Jorginho received the first yellow card for a foul on Billing before referee Andre Marriner deemed fair Mateo Kovacic’s robust challenge on Callum Wilson after the midfielder had appeared to foul the Cherries striker.
Mount’s shot through a crowd of players was well saved by Ramsdale before Alonso drew first blood for the visitors after 33 minutes.
The Spaniard was on hand at the far post to rifle the loose ball into the roof of the net after Giroud’s flicked effort from a Reece James cross had come back off the crossbar.
Steve Cook reacted sharply to prevent Alonso’s header from troubling Ramsdale, the Cherries skipper clearing his lines following a Pedro corner.
Ramsdale dived full length to his left to parry James’s 25-yard piledriver to prevent the visitors from doubling their lead as the first half drew to a close.
The Cherries had a let-off at the start of the second half when Giroud fastened on to a low cross from Alonso, the striker scuffing his effort wide with the goal gaping.
Stacey was well positioned to cut out Kovacic’s dangerous low cross as Alonso prepared to pounce at the far post.
However, the Cherries turned the game on its head by scoring twice in three minutes, raising the roof at Vitality Stadium in the process.
Firstly, Lerma bulldozed his way through a crowd of players to power Fraser’s 54th-minute corner past Caballero despite the best efforts of the Argentine who got a hand to the Colombian’s header.
Then, a flowing move involving Fraser and Billing ended with King tapping home Stacey’s centre, the goal standing following a VAR check for offside.
A double substitution by Frank Lampard saw Ross Barkley and Willian replace Jorginho and Tomori before Junior Stanislas came on for goalscorer King after 68 minutes.
Between the teams’ respective changes, Giroud headed wide when well placed after being picked out by another James cross.
Andreas Christiansen, sporting a protective face mask, received a caution for cynically bringing down Wilson, the defender following Adam Smith into referee Marriner’s notebook.
Michy Batshuayi, on as a replacement for Giroud, had an effort disallowed for offside in the 72nd minute with no VAR check required on this occasion.
Barkley’s fierce drive from the edge of the box deflected off Ake and went for a corner which was dealt with by the Cherries defence.
Dan Gosling, the goal hero of the Cherries’ 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge in December, replaced Lewis Cook with ten minutes remaining.
Ramsdale showed great reactions to turn away Alonso’s deflected cross and again excelled when he dived to his right to parry Pedro’s stinging drive.
But Ramsdale was powerless to stop Alonso heading home from the rebound as the visitors restored parity five minutes from time to earn a share of the spoils.