West Brom came from behind to inflict a fourth straight Premier League defeat on struggling Bournemouth in a captivating game at The Hawthorns.
Joshua King’s calm penalty put the visitors ahead on five minutes after Nyom had clumsily wrestled Ryan Fraser to the ground inside the area.
Craig Dawson equalised at the end of a thrilling first 10 minutes as his strike took a big deflection off Charlie Daniels as Artur Boruc dived in vain.
Boruc’s woeful error in failing to punch clear a corner allowed Gareth McAuely to put his side in front on 22 minutes, with the Cherries’ recent defensive woes routinely exploited by the hosts at set-pieces.
Nacer Chadli’s header was rightly disallowed for offside after the interval, while Dawson was forced off after appearing to be knocked unconscious in the build-up.
Yet despite dominating possession, Eddie Howe’s side failed to find a vital equaliser – Ben Foster making two superb saves in added time to ensure Bournemouth continue their slide into a relegation battle.
For the hosts, substitute James McClean also saw his effort well saved by Boruc late on, as the impressive Baggies have now reached 40 points for the season.
Safe before March
Barring a remarkable downturn in form, West Brom look firmly on course to achieve their best-ever Premier League points total this season.
Their current record stands at 49 when the Baggies finished eighth at the end of the 2012-13 campaign under Steve Clarke, but have 12 games remaining to surpass that total.
Clarke’s side had the benefit of Romelu Lukaku’s 17 league goals that year, whereas this vintage have a more unlikely source in 37-year-old centre-back McAuley, who looks keen and capable of playing to 40 in his current form.
The veteran capped his 500th game in English football with his seventh strike in all competitions this season – drawing him level with Salomon Rondon as West Brom’s top scorer – before marshalling his defence expertly in a tighter second half.
In truth, he will likely never score an easier goal as Boruc suffered the indignity of managing to punch the ball behind him from a corner before it rolled down his back and into McAuley’s path.
The hosts were fortunate with Dawson’s deflected leveller too, but that should not detract from another fine performance as they claimed a fifth victory in their last eight league games.
The plot points were different but this was an all-too familiar tale for Bournemouth as their miserable defence once again made sure they remain without a win in 2017, having now conceded 18 goals in their last six Premier League games.
Daniels’ deflection was unlucky but Dawson should never have been allowed the space to move up from right-back unchecked into a shooting position.
Bournemouth looked petrified every time they conceded a corner – the hosts had eight in total – as Jonny Evans, Dawson and McAuley all tormented their marker, with the latter also hitting the crossbar from a looping header.
As woeful as the visitors looked at set pieces, they also took bizarre risks in open play, Steve Cook perhaps lucky to avoid a red card as he barged Salomon Rondon off the ball as the striker threatened to beat Boruc.
All this makes the club’s decision not to bring in any more defenders in the January transfer window even more puzzling, while Nathan Ake’s departure back to parent club Chelsea hangs like a curse over Howe’s beleaguered side.
Andrew Surman and Harry Arter also failed to provide the protection that Jake Livermore offered for the hosts, while in Boruc, the Cherries have a goalkeeper whose performances grow evermore inconsistent.
More to follow.