Premier League newcomers Bournemouth got their campaign off to a dream start with a deserved 2-0 victory over Aston Villa at the Vitality Stadium, as Steven Gerrard bemoaned a “lack of quality” from his below-par side.
Jefferson Lerma scored the game’s opener in the second minute – the quickest goal scored on matchday one by a promoted team in Premier League history – pouncing on a loose ball from a Lloyd Kelly knockdown before lashing home.
The breakthrough prompted a subtle yet purposeful fist pump from manager Scott Parker on the sidelines, who registered his first managerial triumph over Villa after two previously failed attempts as Fulham boss, and spoke of the importance of a “good start” after the “long hard road” to become a Premier League entity again.
The Cherries, resuming life in the top flight following a two-year hiatus, ground out the victory thanks to impressive solidity at the back, before Kieffer Moore struck his first top-flight goal in the 80th minute to safeguard maximum spoils.
Bournemouth: Travers (7), A.Smith (6), Lerma (8), Mepham (8), Kelly (9), Zemura (7), Pearson (8), Billing (7), Tavernier (9), Moore (9), Solanke (9).
Subs: L.Cook (6), Christie (n/a), Stanislas (n/a)
Aston Villa: Martinez (6), Digne (5), Carlos (5), Konsa (5), Cash (6), Ramsey (6), Kamara (6), McGinn (6), Coutinho (6), Ings (5), Bailey (5).
Subs: Buendia (5), Watkins (6), Archer (n/a), Luiz (n/a)
Man of the match: Marcus Tavernier
Gerrard, once England team-mates with opposite number Parker, attempted to change the course of the game in the second period by introducing Emi Buendia and Ollie Watkins, but the performance had all the hallmarks of an opening weekend display – untidy and disjointed.
“We can’t have any complaints,” the Villa boss conceded in his post-match press conference, while asserting it was “glaringly obvious” where mistakes were made as he concluded a “lack of invention” deeply cost his side. Villa have won just two of their last 12 Premier League encounters (D3 L7).
Bournemouth back with a bang
A game devoid of much quality was decided by two goals either side of the break as the Cherries quick-fire start stunned their visitors into submission, making the perfect imprint on their newly acquired top-flight status.
Big-spending Villa, who finished 14th last season – three places and 10 points worse off than the campaign before – were tired in possession and lacked fluidity throughout, ultimately becoming architects of their own downfall as two failed clearances led to Bournemouth breakthroughs.
The first was scored just one minute and 56 seconds into the game, as Marcus Tavernier’s corner was met by Kelly, who nodded into the path of poacher Lerma. He then fired through a host of bodies and well beyond the reach of a stranded Emi Martinez, who was unsighted by a melee of disorientated Villa defenders.
Having wrestled ascendancy, and with Kelly and Chris Mepham controlling proceedings at the back, Parker’s side were able to ride a brief wave of Villa pressure before Moore ended any faint hope of a revival.
Kelly recycled the ball on the byline, before sweeping a useful cross towards the head of the Wales international as he rose unopposed to head the hosts into an unassailable two-goal lead. Moore has now scored in each of his last four league appearances.
Tavernier impressed on his debut, while Dominic Solanke made his mark on the tie from the off with a physical performance that tormented both Ezri Konsa and Diego Carlos.
Gerrard: Our quality was off
Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard lamented a “lack of quality” in both boxes as his side twice conceded from set-plays during Saturday’s opening weekend defeat.
Not wishing to hide from a below-par display, the former Liverpool midfielder was quick to dispel any assumption the loss was defined by close margins, explaining that would be “disrespectful to Bournemouth”.
IHe blamed his side’s lack of creativity for the outcome, while asserting his team “need to improve” in order to earn results in the Premier League.
“We can’t have any complaints,” Gerrard said. “Two goals conceded from set-plays. We had a lot of possession, but we’ve suffered from a lack of quality. I thought Bournemouth defended extremely well but we allowed them to be in a low block early on.
“Our quality was off. We never crossed the ball well enough, we never showed enough invention. We put all our attacking quality on the pitch but we couldn’t find the answers. Small changes might be the difference, we’ll look at that. We tried to put more invention onto the pitch. After the break it felt like it was improving but then we conceded the sucker punch and the game is over.
Assessing Moore’s goal to kill the tie, he added: “They get the first contact in the area, it’s a free header in the middle of our goal. Across the 90 minutes we never had enough quality in the final third. It’s not fine margins, that’s disrespectful to Bournemouth and an easy out for me. We need to improve. The obvious thing to take away is that we need better quality in the final third.
“We ran hard, we gave a lot today. I don’t feel we need another game to get up to speed, it was a lack of quality today. It’s glaringly obvious where we went wrong. Our performance from box to box was okay, but we weren’t creative enough. We were way off.
“We shot ourselves in the foot by conceding a sloppy second goal. We had the talent on the pitch but our quality was just off today.”
Parker: We hope to change narrative
When quizzed about Bournemouth’s position as one of the favourites to be relegated at the end of the season, manager Scott Parker replied with a hopeful message.
“We’re going to do our best to change that narrative,” the 41-year-old commented, following a confidence-boosting return to the first tier of English football.
“Firstly, the result was good,” he began. “It wasn’t key for me today. They key thing was performance and us understanding what we need to bring to every game in the Premier League.
“Us taking our chance and showing a real passion and a desire and commitment. I was very proud of the team in that sense. A long hard road to get to this point. We need to take that fight and spirit we showed today into every game. We worked hard on our set plays in pre-season, so it was pleasing we executed that well.
“They’ve taken every bit of detail and information; crisis defending at times, we needed some bodies on the line. Then a real intelligence, we were clever and managed the game well. We managed to be progressive. It’s still really early stages but overall I’m pleased.
“This is a young side. The message I keep saying to this group is we have to take this chance. We’re a newly promoted team, we’re going into the hardest most financed league in the world. We know the challenge. We need to show our physicality, we need to be horrible to play against. I want people to know that when they come here they are in for a tough afternoon. If they take points away they have to earn them. Coming here needs to be uncomfortable. Teams need to know that they’ve been in a game.
“We’re trying to change the narrative. It’s down to us to change it over the course of time. I don’t pay much attention to what is being written but I understand it. We’re going to do our best to change that narrative.”
Analysis: Tavernier shrewd summer business
Sky Sports’ Nick Wright:
It has been a quiet summer for Bournemouth so far, with only three new players through the door at the Vitality Stadium, but in Marcus Tavernier, they look to have recruited wisely.
The midfielder, a £12.5m signing from Middlesbrough earlier this week, produced an excellent performance as Scott Parker’s side overcame Aston Villa on the opening weekend.
Tavernier brought energy and guile in equal measure, succumbing to cramp in the closing stages but not before he had made a positive impression on everybody watching.
Bournemouth had just 34 per cent of the possession at the Vitality Stadium but Tavernier was an invaluable outlet throughout, his speed and directness helping them get up the pitch and causing Villa major problems in central areas.
In total, the 23-year-old completed six successful dribbles – twice as many as any other player – with Villa often reduced to fouling him. Tavernier won five free kicks over the course of his 85 minutes on the pitch and showed an eye for a pass too, creating three scoring chances for Bournemouth and helping to ensure their Premier League return went exactly according to plan.
Bournemouth begin a daunting run of fixtures with a visit to champions Manchester City on Saturday August 13 at 3pm. Scott Parker’s side then host Arsenal, live on Sky Sports, before heading to Liverpool.
Aston Villa begin next weekend’s round of fixtures in the early kick-off on Saturday August 13 at Villa Park as Everton come to town. The match starts at 12.30pm.