There may not have been dancing in the streets – it’s not quite the done thing at the Den – but there was certainly lively celebration as League One Millwall pulled off an upset to knock Bournemouth out of the Cup.
A first-half lead from a Steve Morison header was doubled by Shaun Cummings and then wrapped up by Shane Ferguson in injury time. It gave Neil Harris’s side a win that was never less than comfortable against an unrecognisable Bournemouth side that meekly gave up their remaining chance of silverware this season.
Eddie Howe went into this game opting to change his entire XI after Monday’s Premier League collapse against Arsenal. Harris, meanwhile, played his first-choice side and they set about enacting a gameplan of classic 4-4-2 against a team of strangers. They dominated from the off.
The key to Millwall’s play was the classic big-man little-man combination up top. Morison’s height and experience paired with Lee Gregory’s pace and anticipation caused Bournemouth’s uncertain defence problems from the first whistle.
In the fifth minute Gregory ran on to an underhit backpass by Jordan Lee, getting a touch before keeper Adam Federici. As Gregory sprawled to the ground, the ball fell to Morison but he was unable to find the net with his prone team-mate in the way.
In the 25th minute a succession of successful combinations between the pair led to the opening goal. A Morison flick was returned by Gregory to the Welshman who hit a shot deflected for a corner. It went deep, and there was Morison in space to knock the ball to Gregory, whose shot on the turn was deflected wide again. Second corner, near post this time, but Morison was clear again, rising to flick the ball past Federici.
Bournemouth had no response to going behind and looked disjointed in all aspects of play. Jordon Ibe was particularly frustrating, constantly drifting inside from the right wing when the game was crying out for width.
He was in the middle of one such foray on the edge of the Millwall box, when Fred Onyedinma muscled him off the ball and went on a run that took him through three players and the length of the field. His final touch was to slip in Gregory who drove at the near post and hit a shot that just went wide of the far.
Things could not stand for Bournemouth and Howe duly made a change at half time, withdrawing Lee for Callum Wilson and switching to two up front.
Within minutes the change nearly paid dividends as Marc Pugh, now deputising at right back, swung in a cross that found Lys Mousset unmarked on the penalty spot. The young Frenchman, making his first start for the club, lacked the composure to get his header on target with the goal gaping.
Within seconds of that chance, however, Bournemouth were two behind.
Millwall drove the ball upfield to Morison, easily finding space on the right-hand side. Bearing down on the box, he looked up, thought, then drove the ball low across the box with the aim of causing chaos. It duly ensued and as Godfrey and Federici tangled together, the right-back Cummings popped up on the left-hand side to poke home.
Bournemouth finally took the hint and started to play with some alacrity. But while Ibe, now on the left, found a cross that skimmed all the way across the six-yard line and Brad Smith shot from range, the visitors were not carving out chances. The Millwall crowd, meanwhile, were as up for the match as their team and created a storm of noise, despite the ground being only half full.
In injury time Wilson had a goal ruled out for offside. But before the visitors could start wondering about what might have been, Millwall sprang up the other end once more and Ferguson’s cool finish decisively wrapped up the result.
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