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First team

Howe: Our past five performances have been stronger

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

Manager Eddie Howe said he had been torn between contentment and frustration after watching AFC Bournemouth battle out an entertaining 2-2 draw with Chelsea today.

A stirring comeback early in the second half saw the Cherries cancel out Marcos Alonso’s opener and take the lead thanks to goals from Jefferson Lerma and Joshua King.

Lerma headed home Ryan Fraser’s corner to level after 54 minutes before King swept Jack Stacey’s cross past Willy Caballero to turn the game on its head just three minutes later.

But following a sustained spell of pressure from the visitors, Alonso headed his and their second goal with five minutes remaining to earn the Blues a share of the spoils.

Asked whether he had been happy with a point, Howe said: “Yes, I’m happy with the point because it’s something we haven’t done enough this season in really tight games. If we’re not going to win then we need to draw so, in that respect, I was pleased.

“But when you’re winning so late in the game and you crave and are desperate for three points, it was disappointing not to hold on.

“I can’t fault the players for what they gave to the game. I thought it was a very good game and both teams gave everything to the match to try to win it. For me, it was mixed emotions really.”

The Cherries made a fast start and Philip Billing was denied by a fine save from Caballero before the Danish midfielder fired wide when well placed, both chances coming inside the first ten minutes.

Asked whether flying out of the blocks had been a deliberate tactic, Howe replied: “The tactic every week is to try to fly out of the blocks but it doesn’t always pan out that way.

“Lately, I think we’ve started games very well and that was another game where we were on the front foot.

“We created two or three great chances and probably had a hangover because we didn’t take one and then Chelsea came into the game and showed their quality.

“We really needed half-time to regroup and to find our way back into the game because we had lost the early momentum.

“It was very important we didn’t concede a second. It was 1-0 at half-time and Chelsea had been on top for a period of the first half.

“We needed to defend higher up the pitch and to be more aggressive in every phase of defending and I thought you could see a big difference at the start of the second half. We got it back and scored two really good goals.

“We really didn’t let them settle, we committed to everything we did and got the benefit of that.

“I thought the latter stages of the game would always play out that way with our league position and where we are. We had to defend and try to see out the game but, unfortunately, we couldn’t get there.”

Howe was able to welcome back from injury both Nathan Ake and Lerma after they had been forced to sit out last week’s defeat at Burnley.

The pair played key roles in the contest with Ake a colossus at the back for the Cherries against his former club.

Asked how he assessed where the Cherries were in terms of personnel and their league position, Howe said: “I think we’re in a better place than we were a few weeks ago and our past five performances have been stronger.

"We’ve started to score goals and create chances from open play which we weren’t doing a few weeks ago.

“We have a stronger looking squad. We’ve had players return from injury and I think that’s made a huge difference to everything, the performances on the pitch and also the psychology of the players.

“We’re not where we want to be in the league. It’s going to be very tight and it’s going to be a real battle.

“We’ve got ten games to get the points we need and certainly I’m seeing signs that the team is in a much better place and ready for the challenge that lays ahead.”

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