The Media Review: AFC Bournemouth

How the newspapers and websites saw Tuesday's win over AFC Bournemouth.

By Nick Szczepanik • 05 April 2023

By Paul Hazlewood
Pervis Estupinan wins an aerial challenge against Bournemouth.

Albion wins in Bournemouth are rare events, and this one was decorated by an outstanding finish from Evan Ferguson, not to mention Julio Enciso’s first goal for the club.

Ferguson’s opener led almost every report of the match, as the writers had the opportunity to watch replays on the press box monitors and appreciate the quality of the goal.  Enciso’s clincher received less acclaim because his strike came in stoppage time, when intros were being finalised and word counts had already been filled, so made just a line in the early editions. Sorry Julio, but that’s the way the written press works!

Following the principle that great minds think alike, two writers came up with almost identical ways in to their stories.  Jack Rosser of The Sun was one. He wrote: “Evan Ferguson looks like a striker destined for the Champions League – and he might just fire Brighton there.

“The 18-year-old looks full of confidence and dumped Bournemouth back into the bottom three with an inspired finish on a night that showed the true value of a natural goalscorer.

“Brighton’s success this season, which sees them still truly in the hunt for a top-four place, has been built on collective effort – a well-oiled machine. But with that not quite running smoothly here in the face of a bruising Bournemouth side, it was composure and calm finishing that got them through.


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PL Highlights: Bournemouth 0 Albion 2

“Ferguson is somewhat of a throwback striker, a towering figure for his age who can do a bit of everything. Back in the starting XI after picking up a knock on international duty, the youngster was battling defenders, winning headers and then showing a superb touch in the six-yard box to open the scoring.

“Captain Dunk had them in behind Bournemouth with a superb outside of the boot ball down the left flank. Pervis Estupinan picked things up but saw his cross pushed back to the feet of Kaoru Mitoma.

“The Japan international sent a low ball into Ferguson, who clipped into the far corner with a cool backheel – showing the composure and nous of a centre forward ten years his senior.”

Regular Albion-watcher Ed Aarons came up with the same idea in The Guardian, writing that “Evan Ferguson looks destined to play in the Champions League sooner rather than later, but will it be with Brighton? A stunning backheel finish from the 18-year-old Ireland international – his fourth league goal of a memorable first full season – and a late strike from another teenager, the substitute Julio Enciso, enabled Roberto De Zerbi’s side to overcome a spirited Bournemouth effort and move to within striking distance of the top four.

“Just four points now separate Brighton from Tottenham – who have played two more games – and if Ferguson can maintain this kind of form under De Zerbi they can make it a season to remember despite the abrupt departure of Graham Potter to Chelsea in September. For Gary O’Neil, whose side find themselves back in the bottom three after wasting a hatful of chances, it was a harsh lesson from which they must learn quickly.

“In contrast to the patient approach that became their mantra under Graham Potter, De Zerbi’s side racked up their 50th league goal of the season in the first half – the fourth highest in the division – and look on course for the club’s best league finish with an FA Cup semi-final to come as well.


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Steele: I got lost in the moment!

“Ferguson missed Brighton’s thrilling draw against Brentford at the weekend due to injury but adds so much to their attack when he is on the pitch. The opening goal illustrated just what an exciting prospect the teenager from Bettystown is after Lewis Dunk had set up the move with a brilliant through ball. Mitoma’s cutback was just behind Ferguson but he spun and backheeled the ball in one motion to leave Neto with no chance of stopping it.

“Only a brilliant save from Neto kept Bournemouth in the game after Pervis Estupinan’s cutback found Pascal Gross before Moises Caicedo had to be withdrawn after receiving lengthy treatment. Another quick break involving Mitoma and March could have rounded things off in style had it not been for another excellent save from the Brazilian before Paraguayan 19-year-old Enciso danced his way through Bournemouth’s defence in stoppage time to score his first goal since joining last summer, to the delight of the travelling supporters. They could have plenty more trips to plan soon.”

Ian Winrow made the long trek to Dorset for the Daily Mail. He wrote that “Evan Ferguson’s superbly-taken goal enhanced the teenage striker’s growing reputation and strengthened Brighton’s unexpected claims to be contenders for the top four.

“The Republic of Ireland striker, 18, produced an instinctive back-heeled finish midway through the first half for his eighth goal of the season, providing his side with the advantage until Julio Enciso settled the outcome in added time.

“This was by no means a fluent performance by Roberto De Zerbi’s side and they had to work hard for the points. By the final whistle, though, they had tightened their grip on sixth place and moved to within four points of Tottenham, who lie fourth, with two games in hand ensuring Saturday’s meeting between the two teams at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium will carry an extra edge.

“De Zerbi reflected on his side’s chances of breaking into the top four if they can conjure another win at the weekend. 'We have to fight, we have to play and we have to believe,' he said. 'And today the players showed me they believe.’

“The manager inevitably singled out Ferguson for praised but declared himself impressed with the character displayed by his side in claiming the win. 'Evan is very young,' said De Zerbi. 'His best quality is to score and it's a very important quality but I think he has potential to improve in other parts of the pitch, to play with the other players, to play more for the team.


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De Zerbi elated after Bournemouth win

“'In my work I have to make results but I have to help my players to improve, to progress. But I think we can achieve our target with Evan. And for the other young players the same'.”

Gary Jacob joined in the chorus of praise for Ferguson in The Times: “One flash of magic was further proof of Evan Ferguson’s flourishing reputation and another step for Brighton & Hove Albion towards a European spot,” he wrote. “The forward brilliantly backheeled a cross low into the corner of the net before Brighton survived a host of chances to double their lead through Julio Enciso in stoppage time at the end.

“Brighton have two matches in hand as they seek to move into the Champions League places, helped by Ferguson’s fourth league goal in his breakthrough season. He is already looking like the regular goal scorer Brighton have craved, but they will surely be fending off advances come the summer.

“Ferguson came through in Ireland, where he played in every position, including goalkeeper, before settling as a striker aged 12. He signed for Brighton in January 2021, on the recommendation of their Irish scout, Leroy McCourt, brother of Paddy, the former Celtic winger.

“Brighton were worried about an injury to Moises Caicedo, the midfielder, who struck his ankle against that of Philip Billing and hobbled off the pitch. They play Manchester United in an FA Cup semi-final a fortnight on Sunday.

“Ferguson returned to the attack after an unspecified injury, replacing Danny Welbeck as Brighton try to keep their forwards fresh for five more matches this month.

“Welbeck arrived [as substitute] with fresh legs and had a low drive saved after being set up by a combination of Mitoma and March. Seconds into stoppage time, Gross released Enciso to walk the ball in and seal the win.”


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Extended PL Highlights: Bournemouth 0 Albion 2

The Daily Telegraph reported that “Brighton tightened their hold on sixth place thanks to a moment of inspiration from Evan Ferguson and an added time finish from Julio Enciso. Roberto De Zerbi’s side, though, were made to work hard for victory by a Bournemouth side who paid a heavy price for their failings in front of goal.

“Ferguson’s superb back-heeled finish divided the teams from the 28th minute but the points were far from secure until Enciso calmly added the second late on, killing off Bournemouth’s hopes of salvaging something from the game.

“It was Brighton who looked the more assured side during the opening stages, growing into the game and pinning their opponents back as they asserted more control of the game.

“There were few signs of a breakthrough, however, until Lewis Dunk delivered an excellent pass that allowed Pervis Estupinan to break free down the left wing and deliver a cross that was cleared only as far as Kaoru Mitoma. Mitoma served up a second low cross, this time finding Ferguson who produced an instinctive back-heel finish.”

Oddly, nobody explicitly pointed out that Albion’s number 28 had scored in the 28th minute, although Emma Smith of the BBC Sport website came close. “If there was buzz around 18-year-old Ferguson before, it will become more of a roar now after the Irish striker's latest demonstration that he is the real deal,” she wrote.

“After 28 minutes, Ferguson was found by a low cross from Kaoru Mitoma. The Brighton number 28, finding space 12 yards out, superbly flicked the ball just inside the far post with his left heel, beating Bournemouth goalkeeper Neto with guile and placement.

“Having missed the 3-3 draw at home to Brentford on Saturday with an unspecified injury, Brighton manager De Zerbi can only hope to have Ferguson fully fit for the remainder of the season as the Seagulls continue their unlikely tilt at a Champions League spot.

“Brighton cannot afford to do without Mitoma either - his assist means the Japanese winger has now been directly involved in 11 goals in his last 15 league appearances, scoring seven and creating four.

“Were it not for a fine series of second-half saves from Neto, Brighton would have won this game more comfortably before Enciso collected Pascal Gross' fine pass, turned Bournemouth debutant Ilya Zabarnyi and slotted home from six yards.

“With now just one defeat in 15 games across all competitions in 2023, Brighton simply cannot be counted out of the top-four race.”