Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth salvaged a pivotal added-time point in the most contentious of circumstances to remarkably draw 3-3 in a real Christmas Cracker of a game with David Moyes’ West Ham United on the South Coast yesterday afternoon.
The visiting Hammers first took the led through stand-in Skipper James Collins in the early stages, before they were pegged back by Dan Gosling and fell behind via a strike from an unlikely source in Nathan Ake just after the break.
But, the clash would be most remembered for its enthralling conclusion as Marko Arnautovic poached twice in the closing stages to seemingly give the away side all three points, however, Callum Wilson levelled in the 93rd minute, the sixth goal of the encounter.
A share of the points in what was a real Relegation six-pointer kept the Cherries just a single point behind the Hammers just inside the bottom three, while the Irons are a single place and a single point above it, now without a win in three games in all Competitions.
From the start at the Vitality, Cherries Boss Howe decided on three alterations in the wake of his side’s away thrashing at the hands of League leaders Manchester City at the weekend.
One of these came in each area of the pitch as youngster Jack Simpson made way for Skipper Simon Francis in defence, and further forward England U21 star Lewis Cook and high-scoring Norwegian Josh King replaced the injured pairing of Andrew Surman and ex-Hammer Junior Stanislas.
Meanwhile, Irons Manager Moyes made just two changes to his starting Xl from Saturday’s entertaining Premier League home defeat to Newcastle United at the London Stadium.
Makeshift Captain Winston Reid handed the armband to James Collins who replaced him in the team, whilst midfield playmaker Manuel Lanzini returned after a simulation ban, taking the place of Michail Antonio out with a slight knock.
There would be spills and thrills right from the very off in the pouring rain on the South Coast and after just seven minutes of end-to-end action, the fast-paced game had a goal.
An early Aaron Cresswell corner was swung in from the right side, finding the near post run of Collins perfectly for the Welshman to squeeze a header past Asmir Begovic and into the back of the net.
After that, golden opportunities would be passed up at both ends, starting with the hosts when Wilson picked out King on the break, with Adrian San-Miguel’s goal bearing down, he could only scuff the ball wide.
Not much better could be said for Andre Ayew, the culprit of a missed penalty last weekend, as Arthur Masuaku laid it on a plate for him to slot home, however, slipping and not finding the target.
Ultimately, the visitors were made to pay for this missed opportunity just before the half-hour mark as danger man Ryan Fraser lifted in a free-kick in the swirling wins.
There to meet it was Collins, but his header away could only fall at the feet of Gosling, who showed a great deal of composure to guide the ball past Arian and equalise for his team.
Before the break, there would still be time for two hugely controversial decisions from Referee Bobby Madley, the first of which arrived just after the leveller.
In front of the Technical Area, Francis challenged for the ball with Cheikhou Kouyate but struck the Senegal Captain’s face instead, a nasty blow for him and the full-back received only a yellow card.
A short while later, another incident involving a Bournemouth player and a West Ham United star’s face was played out, this time around unseen by any Match Official as King lashed out at Pedro Obiang with what appeared to be a punch, off the ball.
Needless to say, Howe’s men were lucky to make it to half-time with their full Xl still on the pitch and the scores level, but they would make the most of that good fortune early in the second period.
Having started as the better team after half-time, the Cherries got their reward, Fraser, again, firing in a low ball in that was missed by Collins and fell the way of Ake, the former Chelsea man simply sweeping the ball home from that position.
The home side dominated the next period of the racy encounter and had the visitors back against a wall, but a real moment to forget for keeper Begovic turned the tie on its head.
Receiving a simple back pass inside the final ten minutes, the Bosnian slipped under pressure from Arnautovic and gifted the ball to the Austrian, leaving him to turn and finish into an empty net.
The affair was now anyone’s and Moyes’ boys were able to take advantage of that in the final minute of normal time to score a goal that looked set to be the winner baaing some kind of miracle.
Winger Masuaku raced down the left side, finding substitute Javier Hernandez with his cross with his effort being parried directly into the path of Arnautovic to slide the ball home, netting his fifth goal in as many League games.
However, this could only set up a wicked sting in the tale for the travelling Claret & Blue Army.
Deep into six minutes added on, a high floated ball from Lewis Cook found the head of Ake at the far post to nod the ball across goal and find the net via a Wilson touch.
The home fans’ jubilation quickly turned to confusion as Linesman Simon Long signalled offside to rule the effort out, only for Referee Madley to approach him for lengthy discussions before overruling the call and giving the dramatic equaliser.
Replays showed that the West Ham players were right to feel aggrieved, not only had Wilson been in an offside position, but he also used his arm to direct the ball home, nevertheless, it was a twist befitting of one of the great matches in PL history.
Next up for the Cherries, after their winless run of League games was extended to eight, will be the visit of Everton to the Vitality Stadium on Saturday afternoon, their last game of 2017.
Meanwhile, Moyes will have the best part of a week to reflect on what was a very frustrating trip to the South Coast before hosting West Bromwich Albion next Tuesday evening.