Match Reports

Teenage kicks keep Albion marching towards Europe

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Evan Ferguson and substitute Julio Enciso on target in 2-0 win over AFC Bournemouth to keep Albion sixth in the Premier League.

By Bruce Talbot • 04 April 2023

By Paul Hazlewood
Evan Ferguson celebrates after putting Albion in front with his ninth goal of the season.

Albion’s push for Europe remains firmly on course after two teenagers – Evan Ferguson, 18, and 19-year-old Julio Enciso scored in a hard-fought win over Bournemouth.

Ferguson’s cheeky back-heel gave Albion the lead after 28 minutes and although Jason Steele earned his corn with some fine saves, his opposite number Neto brilliantly denied Pascal Gross and Danny Welbeck before Enciso waltzed through Bournemouth’s defence to score his first Premier League goal in stoppage time.

It was only Albion’s third win in 31 visits to the Vitality Stadium and although it wasn’t their most fluent performance of the season, they defended solidly and had match-winners further forward.  

By Paul Hazlewood
Evan Ferguson's brilliant improvised backheel gives Albion the lead.

Albion had settled into a familiar routine at the start, dominating the ball as they probed for an opening. Their early fluency was disrupted when referee Bond went off to have his ear-mic replaced causing a four-minute delay, and it was Bournemouth who had the first decent chance when Jack Stephens flicked a near-post header wide from a corner.

But gradually Albion began to assert themselves and they broke the deadlock with a superbly-created goal. Pervis Estupinan and Kaoru Mitoma worked a one-two down the left and when the defender’s cross was only cleared as far as Mitoma he slid the ball into Ferguson. The striker still had a lot to do but a deft backheel from eight yards wrong-footed keeper Neto and the ball rolled into the corner. It was an outstanding piece of improvisation by the Irishman for his eighth goal of the season while Mitoma became the first Albion player to register five successive goal involvements in the Premier League.

In fairness Bournemouth responded well and will feel they should have equalised during a frenetic three minutes when they had three chances. Steele beat out a powerful strike from Dominic Solanke after a rare mistake by Moises Caicedo, who gave the ball away. Steele then came rushing out to narrow the angle and forced Hamed Traore to shoot wide before blocking another Solanke effort with Adam Webster sliding across to block Traore’s follow-up effort.

Ferguson sent a shot from 20 yards curling narrowly wide of the left-hand post just after the break before Bournemouth threatened again. Lewis Dunk did superbly to prevent Solanke from getting a decisive touch onto Dango Outtara’s cross before Steele stretched to tip Jefferson Lerma’s volley over the bar.

By Paul Hazlewood
Pascal Gross drives forward from midfield.

Ferguson should have been celebrating again in the 55th minute. Albion pressed to win the ball back and Solly March’s pass found him in space 12 yards out but he lofted his right-foot shot over the bar. Joel Veltman then embarked on a storming run unchallenged but instead of picking out the unmarked Alexis Mac Allister, who was making his 100th Albion appearance, he went for glory but his powerful strike was always rising over the target.

Although Albion looked dangerous on the break they were also having to defend strongly. Dunk made two more vital interceptions to frustrate Solanke and Ouattara as the home fans found their voice.

By Paul Hazlewood
Jason Steele turns Jefferson Lerma's shot over, one of several good saves by Albion's keeper.

Danny Welbeck and Enciso came on with 18 minutes to go before Neto, who’d not had much to do, made three outstanding saves in the closing stages to keep Bournemouth in it.

The Brazilian plunged to his right to push away Pascal Gross’s volley from 15 yards and then made an even better save when Mitoma broke at speed, found March who cushioned a pass to Welbeck. The striker struck the ball with aplomb, but Neto was equal to his shot as he pushed it away to his right. Another save to deny Mitoma, after he’d been put through by Enciso’s wonderful turn and shot was unconventional but just as effective.

By Paul Hazlewood
Lewis Dunk brings the ball out of defence.

But there was nothing Neto could do when Enciso put the game to bed in stoppage time. March and Gross combined, the German slid a pass into the Paraguayan's path and Enciso left Illia Zabarnyi on the deck as he stepped inside before calmly rolling the ball into the corner.

“We’re all going on a European tour” sang 1300 Albion fans. They may be right.

Albion: Steele, Veltman, Dunk, Webster, Estupinan, Mac Allister (Enciso 73), Gross, March, Caicedo (Ayari 80), Mitoma (Undav 90+2), Ferguson (Welbeck 73).

Subs not used: Sanchez, Colwill, Gilmour, van Hecke, Buonanotte.

Referee: Darren Bond