Everton’s unbeaten start to the Premier League season came to an end at The Vitality Stadium as Junior Stanislas’ 23rd-minute goal proved decisive in a game that was put beyond the visitors’ reach by a below-par first half performance.
Romelu Lukaku had the Blues’ best chance but was denied by a superb save from Bournemouth goalkeeper Artur Boruc. Substitute Enner Valencia steered wide from a Yannick Bolasie cross late on but it wasn’t to be for an Everton side in search of its fifth successive league win.
The game started almost where the corresponding fixture last season had left off, the 3-3 draw which the BBC’s John Motson described as “probably the most thrilling game I commentated on throughout the campaign”.
Bournemouth went on the front foot from the off, their confidence unaffected by a start to the season which had seen Eddie Howe’s side defeated three times in their opening five games and languishing just above the relegation zone – a position Everton manager Ronald Koeman believes they will not be near come the end of the campaign.
Their confidence was self-evident and their cohesion already apparent as Charlie Daniels invaded with purpose on the left and whipped in a cross to the middle where Callum Wilson was able to get a glancing header in on the edge of the six-yard box though Ashley Williams applied pressure to ensure his effort went wide.
It was a sign, however, of the composure and attacking potential of the home team. They were out of the blocks much quicker than the visitors, for whom a Bolasie cross from the right which failed to find an Everton player was something of an isolated riposte.
Bournemouth continued to attack with real menace and a goal kick headed on by Stanislas found Wilson, who managed to hold off Phil Jagielka but was denied a shooting opportunity by Maarten Stekelenburg advancing from his goal to gather the ball.
Clearly, there was plenty of threat from Everton, with Lukaku restored to the starting line-up having missed the midweek defeat to Norwich with a foot injury and Bolasie, Ross Barkley and Kevin Mirallas providing support in the attack.
A free-kick by Barkley after 10 minutes was perfectly flighted and measured for Lukaku, whose header from eight yards required a remarkable save by Boruc, low to his left. The follow-up scramble resulted in Mirallas firing wide from close range but, at least, the Toffees had given the Cherries something to think about.
Bournemouth were unaffected, their energy levels particularly impressive and they enjoyed the greater share of possession. They continued to induce anxiety among the Blues’ players and travelling supporters, too, as Wilson managed to get the better of Williams on the edge of the penalty area and cut the ball back to on-loan Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere whose shot deflected off Seamus Coleman and onto the crossbar.
Jordon Ibe then fashioned the space for a shot which Williams managed to get his body in the way of, at the expense of a corner.
Koeman had predicted that the game would be won and lost in midfield and Bournemouth’s midfield players were on top, Harry Arter managing to glide past Barkley before shooting from 25 yards, with the ball curling and striking the bottom of the upright before glancing wide.
The relief for Everton was shortlived. Arter again found space on the left to pick out Stanislas in the centre where he had acres of space and tons of time to line up his shot from 25 yards and power it past Stekelenburg into the top right corner. It was only what Bournemouth deserved, such was the ferocity and efficiency of their play.
Gareth Barry forced another save out of Boruc with a 25-yard dipping shot and Williams headed over from a Barkley free-kick as Everton sought to hit back, but Bournemouth caused pulses to quicken again when a corner kick was met by Jagielka’s header, his attempt to clear the danger presenting an opening for Daniels who headed wide.
For all Bournemouth’s play, however, they had produced only two shots more (nine to seven) at the interval and Everton had two shots on target to the home side’s one.
A quick reaction was required by Everton in the second half but again Bournemouth began the second half with greater purpose and a free-kick by Stanislas was half-cleared on the edge of the box by Jagielka but only as far as Steve Cook, whose overhead kick veered wide of the target.
The frenetic pace of the first half diminished discernibly and a cross from the right by Coleman was met solidly by Barkley’s head at the back post, the opportunity alas going wide. Barry was replaced by Tom Cleverley 10 minutes into the second half and five minutes later Gerard Deulofeu came on for Mirallas.
Everton needed an injection of inspiration and it was almost delivered by the Spain Under-21 international when, after initially winning a corner kick, he collected the ball from Idrissa Gueye and whipped in a cross which required a firm touch and desperate lunge by Boruc to sweep the ball away from danger.
Gueye won the ball back and played an incisive pass to Deulofeu, who had Lukaku in his sights had he been similarly efficient in the pass, which he overhit. The signs were encouraging, however, with Everton beginning to pick up all of the second balls.
The build-up play was better, too, and when Barkley held up the ball and then played it short to his left to Bolasie the move progressed along the face of the Bournemouth penalty box via Cleverley and Lukaku, who set up Bolasie for a shot which cleared the crossbar.
A last roll of the dice from the bench came with Valencia’s introduction in place of Gueye and a front two of Lukaku alongside the Ecuadorian. Stretching to get on the end of Bolasie’s centre, the ball struck Valencia’s thigh and trickled wide of the post near the end of the game. It had been that kind of afternoon, just not quite there.
Next up for the Toffees - a Friday night fixture at home against Crystal Palace.