Arnaut Danjuma got Bournemouth back on track for a place in the Championship play-offs as his strike gave them a 1-0 victory over promotion fighter Watford in a moody match at Vitality Stadium.
After two losses in a week, the Cherries pulled out of the top six, Danjuma’s weak effort overtook Daniel Bachmann at the near post in the 61st minute and gave Jonathan Woodgate his first win since becoming head coach has been confirmed until the end of the season.
But there was a procedural advantage throughout the second half and it hit boiling point deep in the stoppage time when Joao Pedro and Jack Wilshere were both sent off for a second booking at following a late tackle from Pedro on Jefferson Lerma.
Lerma had angered Watford players with his reactions to numerous fouls after the break and the two sets of players clashed after Pedro’s tackle with officials and coaching staff struggling to keep them separate.
It ended a frustrating day for Watford staying out of the automatic berths as their four-game winning streak came to a halt after struggling to break a stubborn back line from Cherries.
How Bournemouth got back on track
The 13 goals Bournemouth have conceded from crosses this season is the league’s worst record and Watford looked to exploit it early on. One of those balls in the box saw Adam Masina head wide after a high punch from Asmir Begovic – but that was what came closest for the Hornets to open the scoring in a tight first half.
Bournemouth was disciplined off the ball and created the two best openings. Sadly, Junior Stanislas lost his footing as he looked to shoot after being played by Dominic Solanke, while Lloyd Kelly’s fierce strike from the corner of the box was pushed over the bar by Daniel Bachmann.
The busy Danjuma seemed most likely to create a goal from scratch and he came alive after the break. A meteoric run saw him beat two men and Bachmann with a low shot, only for Francisco Sierralta to clear the goal effort behind.
It seemed to bring the game to life. Danjuma was frustrated again as his weak effort was well guarded by Bachmann after a good ball and they almost paid the price for the lack immediately. Tom Cleverley tried to finish Watford’s quick counterattack with a low finish in the bottom corner, but Begovic’s strong left hand turned the Hornets skipper away.
Danjuma was not to be sidelined for long, however, and his strike came following a moment of controversy that raised the temperature under the February sun.
Nathaniel Chalobah and Lerma tackled each other as they climbed for a header on the halfway line with the former screaming in pain as he fell to the ground. The hosts wanted a red, while the Watford players were furious at Lerma’s reaction. Replays showed that Chalobah’s hand had minimal contact with Lerma’s neck and he was reserved accordingly.
The save saw Watford go extinct and from the resulting free kick, a single ball over the summit freed Danjuma. His tight-angled effort should have been saved by Bachmann, but he slipped to the near post to give the Cherries the lead.
The fierceness remained in the last 30 minutes even though the odds were minimal. Ismaila Sarr failed to find the target with a low strike from the right side of the box until he was inches away from stealing the ball from a lucky Begovic as he waited to retrieve a bouncing ball from the box.
And it all came to a head in downtime. Chalobah had already been substituted to prevent him from receiving a second yellow, but forward Joao Pedro’s late tackle on Lerma saw his marching orders. Wilshere clashed with Hornets skipper Cleverley as the two groups of players engaged in a scramble match near the dugouts.
Man of the Match – Arnaut Danjuma
Arnaut Danjuma was making the difference for Bournemouth and he still looked most likely to break the deadlock on the south coast.
He had already seen a clear goal effort by Francisco Sierralta and another saved by Daniel Bachmann before beating the keeper at the near post with a low shot.
It was the perfect way to respond after being sidelined by Woodgate to the side and Danjuma will know he has the capacity to ensure the Cherries finish in the top six.
Watford hosts Wycombe at the end of the street at Vicarage Road on Wednesday evening at 7pm as Bournemouth heads to Bristol City for a kickoff at 7.45pm.