City 1 Bournemouth 1
By Paul Weston
One year on after being crowned champions of the Premiership, we were presented with free programs as we took our seats. There were no flags, no party atmosphere; just a feeling of wishing to close the season with 3 points.
After Thursday’s shocking finish, City needed to have a good start to this last match of 2016/17 against a somewhat makeshift Bournemouth side. Unfortunately, we carried on in the same vein as against Spurs and within a minute our defence showed up its indecision and allowed Mousset to drive forward from the left past a combined effort of Fuchs and Simpson. Despite a second challenge from Simpson the ball eventually squirmed into the path of Stanislas who had a comfortable job of giving the visitors a 1-0 lead.
This unsettled City, who were finding it difficult to string two or three passes together in defence, midfield or attack. In contrast, Eddie Howe’s team showed us how to move forward with crisp, direct and accurate passing often being instigated by Pugh. They could have had a second goal after accurate work around the edge of the penalty area allowed Gosling to have a cracking shot on target. Luckily, Schmeichel was able to finger-tip it away for a corner.
Perhaps this save allowed City to have some confidence as they started to show more urgency in attack. Indeed, 30 minutes had passed before we even had a shot on target with Mahrez firing straight at the keeper. As the attacks became more prevalent, the south coast side started to pull men back and the last 10 minutes of the first half allowed us to have several half chances from good attacking moves and penetrating corners.
Slimani, who was preferred over Okazaki as a partner to Vardy, went very close with a header from a corner in the 39th minute. Having lost his marker he stooped to head the ball down and across goal and it skimmed past the far upright. There were several occasions of loose balls in the Bournemouth penalty area but somehow the visitors kept a clean sheet at half-time.
The crowd were unhappy that City kept playing the ball back on many occasions throughout the first half rather than being inventive with it going forward. The Cherries, however, did not let us have time on the ball to make constructive moves and it was a credit to them that they continued to play attractive soccer and would always try and play the ball out from the back rather than hoof it to the forwards.
Perhaps this was spotted by Shakespeare because after half-time, we had more men forward and would try and combat this strategy with Vardy coming close on several occasions to stealing the ball from a defender. Having upped the tempo before the break and perhaps told by the manager to be stronger in the tackle especially in midfield, the ball fell kindly to Vardy in the centre circle. His pass to Chilwell on the left was accurately crossed to Slimani in the penalty area whose nod down allowed Vardy to stab in a precious equalizer.
For the next 10 minutes, Bournemouth woke up again and pushed against a City defence that was being punished by the referee with yellow cards for minor offences. The visitors were given a string of free kicks around the edge of the penalty area. Luckily, despite being in dangerous positions, these led to nothing with the City wall doing its job in blocking each attempt on goal.
On the hour, King started a move down the right wing by pumping the ball along the line to Vardy who turned inside his marker and ran past him into the area. His strong pass/shot bounced into the path of Slimani who, six yards out, should have done better with his shot on goal. This was partly blocked and the ball dropped into Vardy’s path as he continued his run and our leading goal scorer netted what should have been the winner. Unfortunately, the assistant referee flagged immediately for offside and, as cameras later showed a legitimate goal, the decision cost us 2 points and £3.8million.
At this point, Howe decided to make a double substitution including bringing on Ibe for Pugh. The latter had been the main instigator of Bournemouth attacking moves and this change allowed City to be far more dominant and it was one way traffic for the next 15 minutes. Vardy had a shot from the right. Mahrez tried an overhead kick which bounced to Slimani and his header was pushed over for a corner. It seemed inevitable that we would finish the season with a win.
In the 85th minute, Mahrez tried one of his weaving runs from the right and was pushed in the back (not for the first time). He took the resulting free kick himself and it was a classic inswinger to the far post where Slimani had run behind the line of defence and he rose unchallenged to guide the ball towards the far post with Allsop static. Alas, the ball fell just the wrong side of the post. Bournemouth sighed with relief; Slimani looked dejected and this was the last meaningful attempt on goal from either side.
The game fizzled out as indeed the season did – at least, in terms of the Premiership. But who could forget the heady days of European teams coming to the King Power and being beaten by an unfancied Midlands team? Who could forget the red flares of the Copenhagen fans? Who could forget the exhilaration of the Seville win? And who could forget the atmosphere when Atletico Madrid visited us and almost left with a fright?
City- Schmeichel; Simpson; Benalouane; Fuchs; Chilwell; Mahrez; King; Ndidi; Albrighton; Slimani; Vardy.
Bournemouth- Allsopp; Smith;Francis; Cook; Daniels; Stanislas; Gosling; Surman; Pugh; Fraser; Mousset.
Attendance 32,000 Referee L. Mason.
The views expressed in this report are the opinions of the Trust member nominated to file the report only and do not represent the views of the Foxes Trust organisation