European football “is possible” next season, says Crystal Palace skipper Luka Milivojevic after helping his side to a comfortable victory over strugglers Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium.
In the first top flight game shown live on BBC TV since 1988, Roy Hodgson’s side moved into the top 10 and left the mediocre Cherries in the relegation zone.
The Eagles are now just four points adrift of fifth-placed Manchester United, who currently occupy a Europa League spot for next season.
Milivojevic told BBC One: “We are not far from it and the last few seasons we have been looking behind.
“It was a perfect night for us, we cannot have imagined a better beginning after a big break. Three points and clean sheet, I am very proud of the boys.
“It is not easy to continue after a break but it is great tonight to come here against a good team to win 2-0 and so I’m happy to be honest.”
Palace took the lead when Milivojevic curled in a 12th-minute free-kick before Jordan Ayew swept home a second after 23 minutes.
Palace saw out the victory in comfort as Bournemouth failed to mount any sort of serious pressure, to leave manager Eddie Howe and his side in serious trouble at the foot of the Premier League.
Bournemouth simply too soft
Howe has received lavish praise for his work at Bournemouth over the years – but he has hit a brick wall as old problems are haunting The Cherries this season.
Bournemouth, at their best, are pleasing on the eye and can pull off the occasional shock as they did in winning at Chelsea in December, but too often they are simply too soft and too easy to score against.
And in their first game since the resumption of the Premier League, Bournemouth looked the same old side, one destined for relegation.
Howe has had long enough to solve the issues Bournemouth have faced but this game once again illustrated the problems he has failed to solve.
He now has the added problem of one of his best attacking players, Ryan Fraser, having taken himself out of the equation by announcing he would not extend his contrast beyond 30 June, thus finishing his Bournemouth career.
Given the fact Bournemouth have not taken a single point away from home in 2020 it is clear the Vitality is their best hope of survival – but not on this evidence.
Howe has a big reputation. Now he must justify it.
Hodgson’s top class job
Roy Hodgson is nowhere near as fashionable as Eddie Howe – and it was understandable he received so much criticism following his England failure in the last 16 in Euro 2016.
There is no question, however, that Hodgson is in his element at Palace, building a side that is solid in defence, dangerous in attack and solid enough to ensure Premier League stability.
This win leaves Palace sitting comfortably in the top 10 and the goals, from Milovjevic’s free-kick and Jordan Ayew’s sweeping finish, showed exactly what they are about.
Hodgson may have his critics for his previous work with Liverpool and England, but when his efforts at the likes of Fulham and West Bromwich Albion are examined, it is no surprise what an excellent job he is doing at his boyhood club.
‘I worry for Bournemouth’ – what BBC pundits said
Former Arsenal and Crystal Palace winger Ian Wright, speaking on BBC One: “When you look at their lack of creativity, you do worry for Bournemouth.
“Their next game is away to Wolves who like to play on the counter-attack and whose creativity will cause Bournemouth a lot of problems.”
Ex-England captain Alan Shearer: “Palace will find it tougher in midweek when they have to go to Liverpool, but that win will give them great confidence.
“Teams can start rusty and be slow, which has been evident in the games since Wednesday, but in the main teams have picked up. There was nothing from Bournemouth and that will be a real worry.”
Man of the Match – Luka Milivojevic (Crystal Palace)
‘We have to play better’ – what they said
Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe: “We know now we have one game less to achieve our objective.
“The table is still so tight, the difference is so tight and we could look at back-to-back wins as being the difference for us. We have to believe that is going to happen but we have to play better than we did in the first half an hour in this game.”
Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson: “I thought the first half was very good. We passed the ball well and I thought our defending was excellent throughout but I thought the game became a bit more bitty in the second half.
“To go in 2-0 up at half-time was a good reward for what was an excellent performance. The front three were excellent today. I think we have had a threat up front all season but the problem is we don’t score enough goals. We have just perhaps not taken them as well as we should do but today we did.
“We’ve had four wins in a row which is something I’ve never had in the Premier League with any of my clubs before and four clean sheets. That is very commendable but now that will be put to the test when we go to Liverpool on Wednesday.”
A rare four in a row for Palace – the stats
- Crystal Palace have won four consecutive Premier League games, the best ongoing winning run of all sides in the competition; only in December 1992 and April 2014 (both five in a row) have they enjoyed a longer winning streak in the top- .
- Bournemouth have lost seven Premier League games in 2020; no other side has lost more during this calendar year (level with West Ham).
- This was the first time Crystal Palace scored more than one goal in the first half of a Premier League game this season; they last did so on the final day of the 2018-19 campaign, also against Bournemouth.
- Bournemouth have failed to keep a clean sheet in each of their past 13 league matches, conceding 25 goals across this spell. Crystal Palace have won three consecutive league meetings with Bournemouth for the first time since April 1988.
- Coming in the 12th minute, Luka Milivojevic’s opener was the first goal Crystal Palace have scored in the opening 20 minutes of any Premier League match this season.
- Both of Jordan Ayew’s last two Premier League goals have been scored in the first half; only one of his first 23 strikes in the competition had been in the opening 45 minutes before this.
Bournemouth travel to Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Premier League on Wednesday, 24 June (18:00 BST) while Crystal Palace are at Liverpool later the same day (20:15 BST).