AFC Bournemouth 1-1 Sheffield United: Sharp snatches late point for steely Blades
(Photo: Getty Images/Glyn Kirk)


Billy Sharp scored two minutes from time for Sheffield United, as the Blades snatched a late point from AFC Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium, to draw 1-1 on the opening day of the new Premier League season.

After Chris Mepham had given the nervy hosts the lead shortly after the hour-mark, veteran striker Sharp netted from the bench late on to give Chris Wilder's start a solid start to life back in the top flight after 13 years.

Steely Blades

As the opening whistle blew on the South coast, many pondered whether the two sides on show would ease their way into the new campaign. The Blades answer was almost an emphatic one. 

In the opening minute, the visitors caught a sleepy Bournemouth off-guard and with David McGoldrick one-on-one with debutant Aaron Ramsdale, the Irish international could only shy his effort straight at the Cherries' stopper.

Rather startled by events, the hosts then roused themselves and went straight on the offensive. Finding space on the right flank, full-back Adam Smith's cross however, went straight over the waiting Callum Wilson in the Sheffield United area and away to safety.

On their return to the top-flight, Wilder's men were showing real fight in the middle of the park, and it was they who were showing greater signs of life.

Playing with a 3-5-2, the Blades were suffocating the hosts, whilst in the wide areas, George Baldock and was finding pockets of space to operate in to find the prowling Callum Robinson, looking to net his first Premier League goal on his top tier bow.

Indeed, the former Preston striker forced another saved from Ramsdale, with the Cherries still struggling to shake off their pre-season rust.

Both Wilson and Josh King were being made to watch from a distance for large periods of the opening half, as the Cherries' efforts were largely being snuffed out from a creativity department.

It was Mepham who came the closest to opening the deadlock just a minute from time, as the centre-back trundled forward from a long throw, only to slice his shot wide from close range.

With the Bournemouth having failed to have single shot on target in the opening half, it was clear the home side were in need of dose of ripening at the break.

Nervy opener

On resumption, it was the Cherries who continued to look the more out-of-sorts, and the hosts had to the be on their mettle once more, as first Steve Cook then Mepham were forced to intervene to prevent openings for the plucky visitors.

One two such occasions, both Robinson and John Lundstram were being given too much space, only for both players to find frustration - the latter of whom screwed his left-footed effort well wide of goal.

As the hour-mark approached however, Bournemouth began to find their feet and as Philip Billing made increasing strides of his club Premier League debut, the Dane forced Dean Henderson into a smart, full-stretch save.

Mepham breaks Sheffield steel

It was a sign of things to come, as, after a string of free-kicks won in the wide areas, a set-piece saw the hosts break the growing anxiety on the South coast.

As arguable Howe's lustiest source of creativity last term, Ryan Fraser's looped ball to the back post was kept alive by Billing, as the Bournemouth bodies piled in.

With Nathan Ake acrobatically hooking the ball goal-ward, Wilson's swept shot goal-wards was saved by the Blades 'keeper, only for the advancing Mepham to crash the rebound home from a tight angle.

As the Vitality erupted to the sound of the first home goal of the season, Mepham took the plaudits from just the second goal of senior career, and put the Cherries in position to earn begin the new term with a win.

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Sharp snatches point

The Blades threw on striking duo in new signing Ollie McBurnie and club legend Sharp - made to wait for his top-flight bow - and Bournemouth again began to retreat deeper into their own half, content with holding on to what they had.

The possession pendulum began to swing back to visitors, as Wilder's charges began to sniff a superb point to take back to Yorkshire and as they threw the kitchen sink at their opponents, it was a old favourite in Sharp who snatched a late draw.

Baldock had passed his first examination at the top level on the right wing, and it was his low cross that found the substitute duo to combine in the Bournemouth box.

McBurnie's initial shot was blocked by the chest of Ake, but as the ball bounced loose of the Bournemouth defence, Sharp - as he has done so many times in the Championship - was on hand to poke home from close range.

The travelling band of Blades fans exploded into a noise, a Wilder reveled on the touchlines. With little time to respond, Dominic Solanke was thrown on for the hosts, but despite Fraser's wayward free-kick from the edge of the area, the Sheffield United held on for a highly creditable 1-1 draw.