Perhaps Scott Parker’s frank forewarning was a feat of kidology. Bournemouth’s manager did not sugarcoat his words in the buildup to their first Premier League game in two years, saying this squad was under-resourced and weaker than the one promoted from the Championship as runners-up last season. The reality is Bournemouth totally outplayed an Aston Villa team fresh from a summer facelift.
Bournemouth flew out of the blocks, Jefferson Lerma leathering in on three minutes after feasting on some poor Villa defending, and the hosts doubled their advantage with 10 minutes to play when Kieffer Moore headed in unchallenged inside the box. The hosts thoroughly deserved victory on their return to this level but for Steven Gerrard, who acknowledged his side need to walk the walk after a positive pre-season, this alarming display provided a rude awakening.
Bournemouth took the lead from an early corner, Lerma hammering in through a sea of bodies after Lloyd Kelly kept alive Marcus Tavernier’s floated ball into the box . If that made uncomfortable viewing for Gerrard on the touchline, then Moore’s header was equally painful. Kelly was allowed to swing in a high cross from the byline and both Boubacar Kamara, one of two Villa players to wilt on debut, and Matty Cash were reluctant to challenge for the ball, to the delight of Moore who picked his spot. Before scoring Moore had shown some cute touches and Ben Pearson was superb in midfield, where Villa seemed to lose almost every battle. Pearson received a warm ovation after cleanly raking the ball from John McGinn, the new Villa captain, seconds before Lerma clawed the ball from the ineffective Coutinho, who was withdrawn late on.
Gerrard ditched the suit blazer at the break, presumably after delivering a few home truths in the away dressing room, at which point Emi Buendía entered in place of Jacob Ramsey, who was booked before half-time for tugging at the shirt of Pearson. For Villa it was a moment that typified a frustrating and underwhelming first half and moments earlier Coutinho tripped Tavernier, who was superb on debut after arriving from Middlesbrough in a £13.5m deal earlier this week. Midway through the second half Tavernier sent an inviting ball across the box after good work by Moore but the Wales striker would later add a comforting second goal.
There was the odd panicked clearance in the Bournemouth defence but Villa failed to strain a makeshift back line. Bournemouth are thin on numbers – they have three senior centre-backs – but you would never have guessed it. Mark Travers was untroubled in goal and Lerma was accomplished on the right of a three-man defence. The Bournemouth captain, Kelly, shone on the other side of Chris Mepham. Kamara sent a shot swerving wide from 25 yards and Coutinho a low strike into the hoardings but this was anything but the start Villa wanted.
August 6, 2022 at 09:52PM Ben Fisher at the Vitality Stadium