Walter Mazzarri’s hopes of finally getting a full night’s sleep were out on hold by Benik Afobe’s late equaliser that secured a point for Bournemouth but left both sides still searching for their first league win of the new year.
manager Mazzarri had admitted his never sleeps after a loss and while his side ended a run of five successive away reverses thanks to headed goals from Christian Kabasele and Troy Deeney, the frustration and conceding the lead eight minute from time meant this felt like a defeat to the Italian.
For Eddie Howe, the Bournemouth manager, there were also mixed feelings. Once again his side demonstrated the defensive frailties that had contributed to them conceding three goals in eight of their previous ten games, but he could take heart from the way his team twice levelled, first through Joshua King before Afobe struck.
“I think this was two points lost,” said Mazzarri. “We deserved to win today. We conceded two mistakes which allowed them to score two goals and we could have scored another goal in the second half.”
Howe took a different view, but couldn’t disguise his feelings about the way his side were twice undone. “Overall I felt we were unfortunate not to win,” he said. “Was I frustrated at the manner in which we conceded the goals? You could say that. I thought we defended well in open play today. Set-plays we knew would be a strength of theirs, they’re a really big team, but the manner of the two set-plays is disappointing. But we have to look for positives. The character of the team was superb today to come back when losing and the impact of the subs should give us a huge boost.”
Mazzarri had complimented Howe’s side before the game, praising Bournemouth’s style and insisting they played some of best football in the league. The composed way in which the home side started the game will have done nothing to change the Italian’s mind with Jack Wilshere at the heart of a succession of neat passing moves that allowed Howe’s team to establish early control.
Less impressive was their work in the final third, although Heurelho Gomes, the Watford goalkeeper, was as big a factor as the home side’s erratic finishing. Certainly Callum Wilson should have done much better when he headed wide from Charlie Daniels’ tenth minute cross but Ryan Fraser was entitled to wonder what else he might have done when he moved onto Wilshere’s floated pass and looped a header over Gomes, only to see the keeper recover his ground and tip the ball to safety.
A long range effort from Wilshere drew another fine save in the 20th minute but while Bournemouth were generating enough momentum to suggest they might soon make a breakthrough, their weaknesses at the other end of the pitch allowed Watford to take an unexpected lead from their first meaningful attack.
Mazzarri’s side had already shown they possessed more aerial power than their opponents and having forced a corner, they took full advantage when home centre-back Steve Cook could only flick on Jose Holebas’s cross towards the back post where Miguel Britos headed back into the middle of the goal and Christian Kabasele won another headed duel to force the ball over the line.
The goal appeared to drain Bournemouth’s confidence while Mazzarri’s players approached the game with growing belief and contained Howe’s side comfortably until the final minutes of the first half when Junior Stanislas broke into the visitors’ area. The winger’s shot deflected off Britos but with the ball again threatening to loop over his head, Gomes reacted acrobatically to direct the ball over the bar.
Bournemouth needed an early response as the start of the second half and it came just three minutes after the restart when Adam Smith and King combined to conjure the equaliser. Smith received the ball wide on the right following a throw-in, and ran positively towards the byline before squaring a low cross that found the unmarked King on the edge of six-yard box, allowing the forward to side-foot past Gomes.
Without a league win since mid-December, Watford might have been expected to wilt after conceding the lead but Holebas’s run and long-range short quickly showed Mazzarri’s side remained convinced they could secure three points. It certainly helped their cause that Gomes continued to excel, this time when he produced another full-length dive to deny Fraser’s shot and when they forced another corner, Deeney was able to expose Bournemouth once again to put his side ahead in the 64th minute.
This time it was Tom Cleverley who delivered the ball into the six-yard area where Deeney rose above keeper Artur Boruc and two home defenders to glance the ball home. However, Afobe’s impressive finish after being sent clear by Andrew Surman ensured Bournemouth salvaged a point and left Mazzarri to contemplate another frustrating afternoon.
“We saw it today, we lose some points when we have made mistakes and paid the highest price,” said the Italian. “And also we keep getting injuries and we have been unlucky as well in games. It’s all these things together that bring us here.”
Bournemouth (4-2-3-1): Boruc 6; A. Smith 7, S Cook 5, Mings 5, Daniels 6; Surman 7, Wilshere 8; Stanislas 6 (Afobe 74), King 6 (Ibe 74), Fraser 7 (Pugh81); Wilson 6. Subs not used: Gosling, Pugh, Arter, B. Smith, Federici.
Watford (3-4-3): Gomes 9; Kaboul 7, Prodl 6, Britos 7; Kabasele 7 (Cathcart 82), Capoue 6, Cleverley 8, Holebas 6; Doucoure 7 (Ighalo 88), Deeney 7, Okaka 6 (Janmaat 62,6). Subs not used: Cathcart, Zuniga, Sinclair, Pantilimon, Mason.
Referee: L Mason 7
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