Bournemouth held off a plucky Cardiff City to open the new Premier League campaign with a 2-0 home win thanks to goals from Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson.
Fraser’s close-range finish midway through the first half and Wilson’s stoppage-time effort proved the difference as Eddie Howe’s men ended a run of three opening weekend defeats.
Wilson, scorer of eight league goals last term, had an earlier chance to put the result beyond doubt before half-time, but his spot-kick was well saved by Neil Etheridge, the goalkeeper becoming the first player to save a penalty on his Premier League debut since Allan McGregor for Hull City in August 2013.
It was to prove the only real joy for last season’s Championship runners-up, though, as a more competitive performance after half-time went unrewarded.
Cardiff’s low-key off-season spending has prompted widespread predictions of an immediate return to the Championship and their deficiencies were evident across a one-sided first 45 minutes.
Dominant in possession, Bournemouth turned their superiority into a deserved opener in the 24th minute as Fraser timed his run well to sweep home Wilson’s intelligent cut-back.
Wilson should have opened his own account just beyond the half-hour mark, but, having been felled in a tangle with Bruno Ecuele Manga, the striker failed to beat Philippines international Etheridge, who turned the low attempt around his left post.
The visitors were far livelier after the interval and, spared by David Brooks’ poor header at one end, almost scrambled in an equaliser with 25 minutes remaining, only for Asmir Begovic to deny Sean Morrison on the line.
Bournemouth eventually reasserted a sense of stability and the second goal came in the 91st minute when Simon Francis bustled his way to the byline and found Wilson for a cool low finish into the bottom far corner.
Our opening goal of the new @premierleague season…#BOUCAR // 1-0 pic.twitter.com/1EWrq4qdvE
— AFC Bournemouth (@afcbournemouth) August 11, 2018
What does it mean: New men key for Cardiff
Maintaining the status quo will not be enough for Cardiff to stay up this season. Though they fought bravely after half-time, the Bluebirds’ struggle to find a midfield foothold will have greater consequences against better sides. New arrivals Victor Camarasa and Harry Arter – ruled ineligible against his parent club – must be used sooner rather than later.
Pat on the back: Fantastic Fraser
His goal was just one fine moment in a match full of them for Fraser. The 24-year-old was a constant threat on the flank and would have had an assist to his credit had Brooks headed in a smart cross early in the second half.
Boot up the backside: Bamba bamboozled
Neil Warnock can perhaps view this loss as an insight as to what will not work in the Premier League. Chief among the findings should be that Sol Bamba is not suited to midfield. Asked to patrol the space in front of defence, the natural centre-back was found out for a lack of mobility and offered little on the ball.
Cardiff head back to Wales for the visit of Newcastle United next Saturday, while Bournemouth’s first trip of the season sees them visit West Ham.