Points shared in pulsating Championship opener
- Dean Whitestone
A full house at Vitality Stadium and armchair viewers across the globe were treated to an absorbing Championship curtain-raiser as AFC Bournemouth and West Brom shared the points following a four-goal thriller.
Emi Marcondes drew first blood for the Cherries in the Sky Sports-televised contest when he applied a fine finish to a Jaidon Anthony cross in the 12th minute.
But Dara O’Shea levelled for the Baggies when he headed past his Republic of Ireland team-mate Mark Travers in the 33rd minute.
And although Phil Billing restored the Cherries’ lead early in the second half, Callum Robinson struck to earn the visitors a deserved point.
Academy graduates Jordan Zemura, Gavin Kilkenny and Anthony were all handed their full league debuts.
The 21-year-olds were three of no fewer than 11 players in the Cherries squad to have progressed through the club’s youth ranks.
Albion appealed in vain for a penalty inside the opening 60 seconds when a shot from Kyle Bartley, following an Alex Mowatt corner, struck Anthony.
A frenetic start saw Dominic Solanke foiled by Bartley as he looked to chase down a David Brooks through ball.
And after Mowatt’s free-kick had been hoisted into the 18-yard and met by Karlan Grant, Travers saved comfortably from the striker’s header.
Marcondes opened the scoring in the 12th minute, the goal owing much to Anthony and also to referee Darren Bond for playing a good advantage.
Anthony traded passes with Billing who was crudely upended by Cedric Kipre, with referee Bond opting against blowing for the foul.
And the Cherries profited with interest when Anthony continued his run before rolling the ball invitingly into the path of Marcondes who swept home from around ten yards.
Bartley inexplicably escaped punishment after flattening Marcondes during an over-zealous challenge as the pair jousted for the ball.
Chris Mepham received the first yellow card of the contest after taking out Grant right in front of the dugouts in the 20th minute, Cherries head coach Parker floored by the West Brom man as he went to ground.
The Baggies levelled through O’Shea in the 33rd minute, the defender beating Travers with a firm header from a Conor Townsend cross.
Grant poked Mowatt’s corner into the back of the net but the effort was chalked off for a foul by O’Shea on Travers.
A goalmouth scramble, sparked by Darnell Furlong’s corner four minutes before half-time, ended with Bartley heading over.
And as an absorbing first half drew to a close, Grant’s speculative drive from the edge of the box was turned past the post by Travers.
Mepham did well to prevent Grant finding Robinson in space, the Cherries defender sliding in to divert his cross for a corner at the start of the second half.
Billing restored the Cherries’ lead seven minutes after the break, the midfielder putting the finishing touches to a fine team move.
It was started by Lloyd Kelly’s raking pass to Anthony on the left flank, the young winger finding Zemura with a clever pass in behind the Baggies defence.
And after West Brom goalkeeper Button had parried Zemura’s cross, Billing made no mistake when he steered the ball into the bottom corner.
Furlong glanced Mowatt’s free-kick past the post before the visitors equalised for a second time midway through the second half.
Mowatt was again in the thick of the action, his centre met by Robinson who gave Travers no chance, finishing clinically from around eight yards.
The Cherries went close to regaining the lead when Billing’s cross was met by Brooks, Button producing an excellent save to push his first-time effort around the post.
Grant’s piledriver from an acute angle flashed past the upright before Billing’s thunderous drive was charged down by Kipre.
Anthony’s deft ball over the top sent Solanke galloping away but his resultant shot was saved low down by former Cherries loan goalkeeper Button.