Sheffield United’s Billy Sharp said “he had dreamed of” scoring in the Premier League as his late equaliser earned his side a point at Bournemouth in the Blades’ first top-flight match since 2007.
Sharp, who had only been on the pitch for six minutes, bundled the ball home from close range after Oliver McBurnie’s mishit shot bounced off Nathan Ake and into the striker’s path.
Chris Mepham’s first Premier League goal, when he smashed in a rebound after Callum Wilson’s shot on the turn had been parried by away goalkeeper Dean Henderson, had looked like giving Bournemouth the three points.
Sharp, 33, had only played in two Premier League matches before – both at the start of the 2012-13 season while at Southampton – and began on the bench, despite being the Blades’ top goalscorer with 24 goals in all competitions in 2018-19.
“I wanted to get on the pitch and help the football club out,” said Sharp. “We put bodies in the box, managed to create something and I was the lucky one to get on the end of it.
“It was what I dreamed of last night and it was a proud moment for me and the family.
“I’m very proud of the boys, they were magnificent. It’s a great point, we’re off the mark and deserved something out of the game.”
Blades look sharp in Premier League return
Sheffield United had not played in the Premier League since being relegated on the final day of the 2006-07 season and had even had a six-year spell in League One, before they finished second in the Championship last season to regain their place among English football’s elite.
Manager Chris Wilder will be delighted with the performance from his side as they did not look overawed at the top level.
Indeed, the visitors nearly took the lead inside the opening 30 seconds when David McGoldrick’s powerful strike was well saved by 21-year-old Bournemouth goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale, who was making his Premier League debut.
Ramsdale again did well to deny Callum Robinson a goal in his first senior appearance for the Blades following an £8m move from Preston in the summer, before McGoldrick shot another chance narrowly wide.
Those missed opportunities looked to be costly when Mepham put the hosts ahead. But Wilder went for it, bringing on £17.5m club record signing McBurnie and then, with eight minutes left, Sharp.
Wilder was rewarded for his decisions with Sharp’s first ever Premier League goal to spark great scenes of celebration among their fans.
“The manager told us to stick our chests out, be brave,” added Sharp. “We all watched Norwich last night. They played very well but got beaten [4-1] by Liverpool.
“No disrespect to Bournemouth, but we thought we could come here and get something from the game.”
Injury-hit Bournemouth have to settle for a point
It has been a testing summer for Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe, who was without Arnaut Danjuma, David Brooks, Dan Gosling, Lloyd Kelly, Simon Francis, Lewis Cook and Junior Stanislas.
The hosts did not have a shot on target for the first hour before Philip Billing, impressing in his full debut since moving from Huddersfield for £15m in the summer, hit a beautiful strike from 25 yards out which Blades goalkeeper Henderson did excellently to push it wide.
But Bournemouth did take the lead within five minutes of that. A free-kick on the right was floated into the box by Ryan Fraser, it got headed back by Billing to Ake, who tried the overhead.
That fell to Wilson, whose shot on the spin was not a brilliant connection, but Henderson could only parry the effort with Mepham there to smash in the rebound.
Bournemouth had looked like holding on for the three points and they got a bit unlucky with the Blades’ equaliser as McBurnie’s shot was going wide before it deflected and hit Ake in the face, then fell for Sharp to deny the Cherries a winning start.
Stats – Mepham becomes Bournemouth’s third youngest Premier League goalscorer
- Bournemouth have lost just one of their 12 Premier League home games against promoted sides (won seven, drew four).
- Sheffield United are winless in their last 11 Premier League away games (drew two, lost nine), with their last such victory coming in December 2006 at Wigan (1-0).
- Bournemouth have only won one of their five opening day games in the Premier League (drew one, lost three).
- Since the start of last season, only Liverpool (30) have scored more Premier League goals from set-pieces than Bournemouth (22).
- Bournemouth’s Chris Mepham netted just his second ever league goal and his first since March 2018 for Brentford, in what was his 57th league appearance.
- At 21 years and 278 days old, Chris Mepham is Bournemouth’s third youngest goalscorer in the Premier League after David Brooks and Nathan Ake.
Man of the match – Philip Billing (Bournemouth)
‘Up steps Mr Sheffield United’ – what they said
Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe speaking to Match of the Day: “I am disappointed we didn’t get over the line. It was a really tight game. It wasn’t free-flowing from either team and I don’t think we played to our strengths enough.
“Chris [Mepham] did well. He took his goal well and it was a good time for us. We hadn’t created too many chances so I was pleased to see him score.
“It is always a concern when you are without a few key players. It will be something we have to deal with.”
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder: “It is the right result. I think we deserved something from the game. We grew into it. There was obviously going to be some anticipation.
“It has been a great experience and one we really enjoyed. We came here to get a result and that was the biggest thing. It is a very good Bournemouth side who have done very well in the last few seasons so we knew it would be tough.
“We should have gone 1-0 up in the first moment and we had a few chances in the second half – so did they. We handled it well. There were a lot of ricochets and bobbles around the goal and up steps Mr Sheffield United.
“I am delighted for him and everyone else at the club. We have to have confidence in our ability. It will be a tough season for us.”
Bournemouth travel to play another newly-promoted side, Aston Villa, on Saturday, 17 August (15:00 BST) before Sheffield United play their first top-flight match at Bramall Lane for more than 12 years when they entertain Crystal Palace a day later (14:00 BST).