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Marc Pugh’s half-volley drives Bournemouth past Leicester City

The Guardian logo The Guardian 14-12-2016 Ben Fisher at the Vitality Stadium
Marc Pugh salutes his opening goal for Bournemouth against Leicester City. © Reuters Marc Pugh salutes his opening goal for Bournemouth against Leicester City.

Bournemouth handed Leicester City another wake-up call after Marc Pugh’s first goal of the season overcame the Premier League champions. Leicester’s unwanted away record continues and it is now eight months since Claudio Ranieri’s side last tasted victory on the road.

After walking out on to the pitch to stretch their legs Jamie Vardy and Marc Albrighton were soaked by the Bournemouth sprinklers. From that moment on Leicester failed to show the mettle of champions and it was a 200th Premier League match to forget for Ranieri, whose side have now won only two of their past nine matches in all competitions.

Eddie Howe made three changes from the defeat at Burnley on Saturday. Pugh made his first Premier League start of the season while Jack Wilshere returned to the Bournemouth midfield, but the top‑scorer Callum Wilson had to make do with a place on the bench. Ryan Fraser, whose 22 touches transformed Bournemouth’s fortunes against Liverpool in their previous home fixture, missed the match altogether.

For the visitors Luis Hernández deputised for the suspended Danny Simpson at right-back but the trip to the south coast came too soon for Danny Drinkwater, who had picked up a knock in Porto, and Kasper Schmeichel, who continues to recover from a broken hand.

Ranieri’s team beat Manchester City last time out and he said his team faced “big battles but with these warriors” the Italian felt confident. The faith and freedom given to his players appeared a little misplaced, though, with Bournemouth seizing control of the game after Leicester’s initial promise.

The hosts, however, caused an early alarm when their left-back Charlie Daniels wriggled free of Hernández before crossing the ball low; but Adam Smith, playing in an advanced right-midfield position, was unable to complete a diving header with an open goal gaping.

Riyad Mahrez twice found Vardy clean through behind the Bournemouth defence; on the second occasion the striker’s heavy touch let him down, allowing Steve Cook to block Vardy’s effort after rounding the goalkeeper, Artur Boruc.

It was a frustrating first half for Vardy, who celebrated his first Premier League hat-trick in Saturday’s victory over Manchester City. With the ball already out of touch on the halfway line the England striker needlessly kicked the ball towards the tunnel, angering the Bournemouth manager.

Bournemouth recorded their first shot on target when Wilshere tried his luck from distance with a low drive that was comfortably saved by Ron-Robert Zieler, the Leicester goalkeeper. Zieler then booted his goal‑kick into the backside of Benik Afobe,with the ball running straight out of play for a throw-in. Afobe reacted quickly, teeing up Pugh, the Bournemouth winger, who attempted an ambitious lob on the German goalkeeper.

Robert Huth then saw a shot deflected wide from a corner but Leicester were unable to truly test Boruc. Some head tennis in the Bournemouth box between Huth and Wes Morgan, the Leicester captain, also came to nothing. Huth was later fortunate not to pick up a booking, tugging back Harry Arter as Bournemouth counterattacked. Bournemouth were not about to back down and the hosts were eventually rewarded for their efforts.

After being picked out by Simon Francis, the marauding Smith slid the ball across from the right for Afobe who fired low towards goal only for Zieler to save with his legs.

The rebound fell straight to Pugh, Bournemouth’s longest-serving player and he half-volleyed emphatically past the Leicester goalkeeper, whose right hand was not strong enough to prevent the shot hitting the net. Ranieri grew increasingly frustrated, frantically whistling to his players before sending his team out early for the second period.

Leicester attempted to ratchet things up, but they still appeared short on quality when they needed it most. Mahrez’s cross awkwardly bounced off Francis, the Bournemouth captain, for a corner but Leicester failed to carve out clear-cut chances on Boruc’s goal.

Howe had urged his side to show no signs of a “hangover” from the defeat on Saturday and Bournemouth were dogged yet inventive throughout here. Leicester’s prime weaponry was blunted.

A more direct approach almost paid dividends, with Hernández’s testing long throw momentarily frightening the Bournemouth back line. Bournemouth were forced to soak up plenty of Leicester pressure and their biggest fright was about to come when Paul Tierney, the referee, waved away appeals for a penalty when Nathan Aké clumsily upended Vardy.

The substitute Okazaki then went close. The Japanese striker, who appeared to handle the ball away from Wilshere, drove forward before unleashing his shot just wide. Ranieri summoned the striker Leonardo Ulloa, with the centre-back Huth making way.

Howe sought to freshen things up himself too, with Afobe and Joshua King replaced by Callum Wilson and Dan Gosling. Howe’s final instructions to Gosling appeared to ask him to simply get in the faces of the opposition.

Bournemouth stood tall to defend several late Leicester attacks, with Mahrez twice panicking defenders after weaving into the box. Leicester almost snatched a point with only injury-time remaining but Boruc, and his defence, did brilliantly to keep out Ulloa’s close-range effort. Bournemouth – somehow – held on, and now sit eighth in the table.

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