MILLWALL produced a defensive masterclass and a clinical attacking display to knock Bournemouth out of the FA Cup at a buzzing Den on Saturday afternoon.
Steve Morison headed Millwall in front in the 26th minute, before Shaun Cummings doubled the lead after the break. The Lions survived an onslaught as Bournemouth piled players forward looking for a goal to get back into the game, but they couldn’t find a way past a rock-solid Millwall defence and Shane Ferguson added a third goal in added time at the end of the game to seal progress through to the fourth round.
Among a number of outstanding performances, Fred Onyedinma’s arguably topped the lot. Such was the amount of ground he covered, he was taken off spent in the 75th minute. One run in the first half had the crowd on their feet but his defensive discipline symbolised the display.
Jordan Archer didn't have a save to make and that he didn’t was down to some supreme defensive performances. Tony Craig, looking like he has a new lease of life at left-back, timed a tackle on Lewis Grabban in the box in the second half that had to be perfect. Shaun Hutchinson summed up his performance with a vital late interception as Bournemouth poured forward trying to get a goal back.
All over the pitch no player shirked a personal challenge and despite having expended an enormous amount of energy somehow Morison was driving into the Bournemouth box in the 89th minute looking for a third, but he shot over the crossbar. He was doing the same a minute later before Callum Wilson had the ball in the net, but the offside flag was up. It was another measure of Millwall’s performance that they remained so concentrated at the back and Ferguson’s goal in no way flattered them.
It won’t take anything away from Millwall’s win that Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe made 11 changes to the side that drew 3-3 with Arsenal on Tuesday night. These things are all relative, and Howe was able to hand starts to French underage international Lys Mousset, bought for more than £6million in the summer, £8million Tyrone Mings and Grabban, the £7million former Lions striker.
They had five players aged 23 or under who had featured five times or fewer for the club. And in the early stages it was Lee Gregory and Morison using their experience to put pressure on the Cherries back four and Adam Federici. Bournemouth wanted to play it out from the back but maybe they had underestimated the effectiveness of the squeeze Millwall would put on them.
The home side should have gone in front in the fifth minute when Gregory anticipated a ball played back towards Federici and blocked the goalkeeper’s attempted clearance. Morison was there but it was a more difficult finish than it looked with Gregory lying on the ground in front of him, and Morison mis-hit his effort wide at the near post.
That didn’t put Bournemouth off their game plan and Federici was almost caught in possession again later in the first half but got the ball away just before Morison reached him. Millwall also had the chance to go ahead in the 14th minute but from Morison’s clever flick forward the ball just wouldn’t come down quickly enough in the box for Gregory.
Morison and Gregory just would not leave Bournemouth’s defenders to work the ball comfortably out from the back and after Morison and Mings clashed referee Andrew Madley had to have a word with both players.
When Millwall went ahead it was reward for that accumulation of pressure being applied by their forward players. Little had been seen from Bournemouth in an attacking sense apart from a shot from Brad Smith that went well over, before Millwall won their first corner of the game in the 26th minute. Morison headed Shaun Williams’ delivery towards Gregory and there was a hint of handball when Emerson Hyndman blocked his shot. From the resulting in-swinging corner from Williams, Morison flicked home brilliantly at the near post for his 80th goal for the club.
Millwall were disciplined in defence, retaining that familiar shape. And it was after a period when they found themselves under pressure that they had the chance to go 2-0 up. Jordan Ibe, who was being kept quiet by Craig, attempted to weave across the edge of the box to work space for a shot. Onyedinma, back deep to give defensive cover, saw the danger and took the ball off the winger before going on a spectacular run up the pitch away from a number of covering Bournemouth players. Onyedinma spotted Gregory’s run across the Bournemouth defence and played in the striker. It was a difficult chance and Greogry dragged his left-footed shot wide.
Right at the end of the first half Onyedinma seemed to have his shirt pulled deep in Bournemouth territory, but the away side broke and almost equalised when Grabban was close to getting a touch to a cross to the near post. And from another short corner Hyndman fired well off target.
Millwall went two goals up four minutes into the second half moments after Mousset could have levelled but sent a header wide. Millwall went up the other end of the pitch and suddenly Gregory and Cummings were sprinting into the box with Morison in possession in the right. Morison’s cross, aimed at Gregory, was palmed away by Fedirici, but only at Cummings who prodded in his second goal for the club.
Bournemouth failed to register a shot on goal during the 90 minutes, and Ferguson sealed the win with a breakaway strike. It was no more than they deserved.
Image: Millwall FC