Bournemouth’s decision to sack Gary O’Neil in the summer looked harsh at the time and it is not looking any wiser with winter looming. Their former manager reminded them of his worth on his return, with Wolves overturning a half-time deficit to earn a deserved victory with a late winner from the substitute Sasa Kalajdzic.
The defeat, with Bournemouth playing almost 40 minutes with 10 men after Lewis Cook’s reckless dismissal, resulted in their longest winless start to a league season – collecting three points from their first nine matches – with Andoni Iraola looking as if he is running short of time to vindicate his appointment as O’Neil’s successor.
Dominic Solanke’s deft flick sparked hopes of a first league win under Iraola but Wolves would not be denied. Matheus Cunha curled home an equaliser 71 seconds into the second half and Cook’s headbutt resulted in a red card that exacerbated Bournemouth’s problems. Kalajdzic profited from the hosts’ defensive lapse to increase the gloom on the south coast.
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O’Neil refused to take any extra pleasure from his victorious return. The Wolves head coach, who guided Bournemouth to 15th in the league last season, said: “It’s not about me or returning to Bournemouth. It’s just a really good win for a group that are making progress.
“I feel no different to when we beat Manchester City and Everton. It feels exactly the same. I have huge respect for everybody at Bournemouth. They gave me an opportunity to manage a Premier League team. It was a funny experience being back but I just enjoyed our performance.”
Bournemouth took the lead with a move started by David Brooks and Philip Billing’s low cross was finished off supremely by Solanke’s backheel flick for his fourth league goal of the season.
Pedro Neto was Wolves’ most threatening attacker but he was unable to keep a shot down from distance to the relief of the home fans. Wolves were dominating possession and it seemed only a matter of time before they exposed a brittle backline.
Wolves did not have to wait too long for their equaliser, less than two minutes into the second half, with Neto, who provided his sixth assist of the season, laying the ball off to Cunha for the Brazilian attacker to curl the ball into the net.
It got worse for Bournemouth after 54 minutes with their midfielder Cook dismissed for headbutting Hwang Hee-chan after the pair clashed.
Wolves predictably dominated after the red card as they pushed for the winner their supremacy merited. Bournemouth’s forays into the opposing half were rare but the substitute Ryan Christie forced José Sá into a comfortable save from a decent position.
Paul Tierney shows Lewis Cook a red card. Photograph: Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images
The lively Cunha spotted the chance to score a second goal but his strike from the edge of the area was parried by the Bournemouth goalkeeper, Neto, and Hwang blasted the rebound over the target.
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Craig Dawson almost emerged as the unlikely matchwinner for Wolves but the centre-back’s low attempt from close range was parried to safety. The chances kept coming but Neto blasted over the crossbar from Rayan Aït-Nouri’s cross. Bournemouth still carried an occasional threat on the break, with Joe Rothwell’s fierce shot charged down and Billing’s shot held by Sá.
But Wolves punished their opponents in the 88th minute when Billing was robbed of possession in his own half – after a short pass from Neto – enabling Hwang to play in the substitute Kalajdzic for a close-range finish to increase Iraola’s troubles at Bournemouth.
Iraola said: “We have to find ways to win games. When you take all the matches, there are things that are costing us the wins. We are not having a game without making mistakes. They are costing us too much.
“Nobody should be concerned about it [his position]. I’m concerned about Bournemouth winning games. It’s not a matter of my situation. It’s about how we can solve things.”
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