Cherries blossom Defoe strikes as Bournemouth grab first win of season
The last time Jermain Defoe scored for Bournemouth, Eddie Howe was playing centre-back behind the then teenage loanee and more than 16 years on from that day the master finisher had lost none of his edge when it came to scoring a crucial Friday-night winner.
It was a goal from Defoe that decided matters with Bournemouth without a win in their previous four games and also coming from a goal down against a Brighton team who surprised them at the start of the second half. Howe has had to pay a premium to bring one of the English game’s great marksman to the club and the 34-year-old duly delivered with a textbook Defoe finish to decide the game.
His last goal for the Dorset side had come in May 2001 in a 3-3 draw at Reading when the clubs were in what is now League One and Defoe was a red-hot prospect on loan from West Ham. A lot has changed since those days but even now they are an established Premier League side, things were anxious until Howe made the change that altered the course of the game with his side trailing to Solly March’s header.
That was to bring on the 21-yearold Jordon Ibe, a £15million signing from Liverpool last summer, who has yet to establish himself at his new club. He had a remarkable impact on this game for his manager, assisting the equaliser for Andrew Surman and then delivering the perfect ball into the stride of Defoe to lash home his 160th Premier League goal, now just three behind Robbie Fowler who is sixth on the all-time list.
Later Howe described the young Englishman a “player of immense promise”. “I feel that sometimes we underestimate how young he is because it feels like he has been around for a long time,” Howe said. “He is still learning lots of aspects but as long as we see that attitude to improve he will get better.
“He has already become a better player and he can give us a real lift. He has had to get used to our training and how we work and understanding our demands. Sometimes it can be a shock to the system and it takes time to understand what we want to do.
“The two assists were a really good cameo of what he is all about. He is a really talented lad. He is different to what we have got in the squad, that ability to beat people, and he has real pace. He showed real quality with his back-heel, which was a moment of magic and with the second, the weight on the pass was perfect for Jermain.”
There was also credit due to Bournemouth for keeping their composure after March scored during a period when Brighton amped up the pressure at the start of the second half, having been largely dormant before the break. The nerves were fraying around the Vitality Stadium at that point, with Defoe hardly having been given a sight of goal in the first half. “We haven’t created enough chances for him as a team, and he’s a player who thrives on openings,” Howe said. “He was surviving on half-chances in the first half and it is up to us to learn to feed him the ball.”
Back when a teenage Defoe scored goals every week for Bournemouth in the third tier, Howe said he was “the best finisher I have ever seen”. “I couldn’t believe how good he was in those days,” Howe said. “We need to know what Jermain wants and when he wants the ball.”
Ibe came on with Brighton in the lead, March’s goal headed in from a cross by Pascal Gross, who has now either scored or been involved in all four of Brighton’s league goals this season. He later went off injured and Chris Hughton said that in the end his team were overwhelmed by the level of quality upon which Howe could call.
“We defended well for large parts of the game and the two occasions we didn’t the two goals came and that was a disappointment,” Hughton said.
“They [Bournemouth] are a side who have fared well and recruited better. I expect them to have a decent season. The fact they have lost games, that can happen to any side outside the top teams. It was only a matter of time until they started winning again.”
In the second half, Surman headed off the line twice in quick succession when Shane Duffy and then Propper headed the ball goalwards. When Gross delivered another corner, Duffy headed on and the midfielder Dale Stephens connected with a header that rattled the bar. Brighton took the lead when Gross made some space on the right and crossed for March to score.
For Bournemouth’s first, Ibe back-heeled a brilliant assist into the path of Surman, who kept his nerve to finish well. Ibe won the corner that led to Brighton’s goal but it was his assist for Defoe that stood out: he waited for the moment to slide a ball with the outside of his right foot into the path of the striker who always knows what to do in that situation.
5,977 days since my last #AFCB goal and it feels just as good @Iamjermaindefoe
Killer touch: Jermain Defoe fires in Bournemouth’s second goal