Not even Storm Ciara can blow Sheffield United’s remarkable European charge off course.
While Manchester City’s clash against West Ham fell foul to the weather, on the other side of the Pennines it was always going to take more than a bit of wind and rain to stop these Blades.
And though the hardy home side were rattled early on by Callum Wilson, there was almost an inevitability about their comeback, which began with Billy Sharp and was finished off by substitute John Lundstram six minutes from time.
Sheffield United continued their remarkable debut Premier League season on Sunday
The Blades moved up to fifth after a comeback 2-1 win against Bournemouth at home
Chris Wilder was proud of his players’ belief, as their rigid structure continues to be rock solid
When the final whistle sounded, ‘the Blades are staying up’ was the chant which rang out from the Bramall Lane Kop. But these supporters are dreaming of so much more than avoiding relegation.
It was only last week that Blades boss Wilder finally admitted Europe was in his sights. Well, he could hardly continue denying it given his side are now up to fifth in the table with less than a third of the season still to go.
Incredibly, United are also now just two points off Chelsea in the final Champions League position. It is no wonder Wilder does not want a winter break.
After Saturday’s game, the Blades manager and his players headed straight to Manchester airport for a flight to Dubai. But nobody who watched this match could doubt that Wilder would rather be in the thick of things on the touchline than sat on a sun lounger.
Callum Wilson scored the opening goal of the game to put Bournemouth in front
The hosts had to fight back after Callum Wilson put Eddie Howe’s side into the lead
As always, Wilder was at the heart of everything here. He was booked in the second half for pushing Bournemouth’s Andrew Surman. Then he saw his two second-half subs combine for the winning goal.
It was also a day to remember for club captain Sharp. In his 16-year professional career, scoring a Premier League goal at Bramall Lane was one thing missing off the boyhood Blade’s CV. But he ticked that off the bucket list against Bournemouth. And boy, did he celebrate.
For Lundstram, as well, this was an important intervention. He is out of contract in the summer and has so far failed to agree a new deal. So his match-winning cameo off the bench can only strengthen his position in the ongoing negotiations.
Lundstram’s winner was a painful blow for Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe, who was looking to make it three straight wins but could now see his side back in the drop zone when they return from their winter break.
And to think, all of these storylines may never have occurred because of the weather. A deluge two hours before kick-off, as well as winds of 50mph, had put this match in serious doubt.
But referee Jon Moss passed the pitch playable 80 minutes before action got under way. And Moss clearly made the right call, with the weather relenting long before the 2pm start time, and the sun breaking out just as United kicked off.
Certainly, Wilder will have seen much worse conditions from his days managing Bradway FC in the Meadowhall Sheffield Sunday League. Yet his side were still uncharacteristically sloppy in the early stages.
Bournemouth forward Ryan Fraser breached their backline at will and Harry Wilson and namesake Callum both came close from two of his crosses. So it came as no surprise when the visitors took the lead after only 13 minutes.
Wilder clashed with Andrew Surman during the match, before United made their fightback
Bournemouth face a tough challenge to survive, sitting two points above the drop zone
On his home debut, United’s £22million record signing Sander Berge – whose family were unable to travel here from Norway because of Storm Ciara – was the guilty party, giving the ball away just outside his own box.
Harry Wilson then fed through Fraser, who cut the ball back to the on-loan Liverpool winger. And though Wilson’s shot was blocked by John Egan, Callum Wilson clinically dispatched the rebound into the roof of the net.
That goal, though, seemed to spur the hosts into action and they started peppering the Cherries goal. Aaron Ramsdale kept out Oli McBurnie’s header from the first of three successive Blades corners on the stroke of half-time; pressure which finally took its toll on Bournemouth.
From Fleck’s inswinger, Berge stuck out a long leg to keep the ball in play and after Fraser stopped Egan’s shot on the line, Sharp was on hand at the back post to hammer home just his second Premier League goal; the first of which was an equaliser at Bournemouth on the opening day of the season.
Sharp wore the captain’s armband and inspired the home side in front of their fans
Eddie Howe will rue the dropped points and knows his side are in the thick of a relegation scrap
The tempers flared on the sidelines in the game’s major flashpoint on Sunday afternoon
With things hotting up on the pitch, tempers even flared on the touchline. When Surman stormed over to get the ball back from the Blades bench, he pushed Wilder, who shoved him back. Fourth official Lee Mason had to get in between the pair – who were both booked – before a burly Bramall Lane security man blocked other Bournemouth players from getting involved.
Back on the grass, Dean Henderson pulled off a brilliant diving save to keep out Fraser’s powerful left-footed drive after a rare Bournemouth attack, yet it was the Blades who found a winner.
From Enda Stevens’ pass, Lys Mousset slipped the ball to fellow replacement Lundstram. And the contract rebel took one touch before firing past Ramsdale – ensuring the Blades had plenty to celebrate on that flight to Dubai.