Sheffield United took another step towards achieving their European dream with a 2-1 comeback win over Bournemouth at Bramall Lane on Sunday.
With the game initially in doubt thanks to the effects of Storm Ciara, the weather cleared and Bournemouth took the lead thanks to a poacher’s effort from Callum Wilson.
However, the Blades rallied and equalised through Billy Sharp just before half-time, while substitute John Lundstram finished the job late on.
Sheffield United are now within touching distance of Chelsea in the Champions League places, but what else did we learn from the match?
1. European dream
At the start of the season, if you’d have been asked to pick between the two, most would have definitely put Sheffield United down as relegation battlers and Bournemouth as European contenders. Well, what do we know?
Lundstram’s late winner has moved the Blades above Tottenham into fifth place, just two (two!) points behind fourth-placed Chelsea in the final Champions League spot.
Furthermore, the victory over Eddie Howe’s side puts Sheffield United onto 39 points from just 26 games – one more than they managed during the entirety of their last top-flight campaign in 2006/07.
It’s a dream that doesn’t look like ending right now for Sheffield United fans.
2006/07: 37 points
2019/20: 39 points
Sheffield United now have more points after 26 games than in the whole their previous Premier League season. ⚔️ https://t.co/aZJIG79lUa
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 9, 2020
2. Sharpest tool in the box
Having initially looked on his way out of Bramall Lane in January, Wilder will now be relieved to have kept hold of veteran striker Billy Sharp.
34 – Each of Billy Sharp's last 34 league goals have been scored from inside the box, in a run dating back to October 2017. Proximity. pic.twitter.com/Do3aMO90HE
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 9, 2020
A Sheffield United fan favourite, the 34-year-old popped up to fire home a rebound to bring the Blades level after initially struggling to get a foothold in the game.
That was just Sharp’s second goal of the season – both of which have come against Bournemouth – but also extended his run of 34 consecutive strikes in the league coming inside the box, dating back to October 2017.
3. Wilson continues resurgence
With Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford both at risk of missing the European Championships this summer, all manner of striker are being talked up for a place in Gareth Southgate’s England squad.
Callum Wilson has been the man to play deputy to Kane in recent international breaks but loss of form and the emergence of the likes of Tammy Abraham, Danny Ings and Dominic Calvert-Lewin has left his place under threat.
Callum Wilson is back in the goals! ⚽️
He's scored two goals from three Premier League games, having gone 1️⃣5️⃣ without scoring…
The perfect start for the Cherries! pic.twitter.com/tDDy6DKgyv
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) February 9, 2020
But on Sunday, Wilson made sure he left Southgate with no choice but to keep him at the forefront of his thoughts, looking alive to latch onto a rebound to give Bournemouth an early lead at Bramall Lane.
That’s two goals in his last three games having previously gone 15 without scoring. The form of Wilson will be key in keeping Bournemouth in the Premier League this season, as well as enhancing is chances with the Three Lions at the end of it.
4. Berge recovers from early setback
Record signing Sander Berge was hugely impressive during his Sheffield United debut against Crystal Palace last time out, making a match-high six tackles and adding even more variety to Wilder’s midfield.
— Sheffield United (@SheffieldUnited) February 9, 2020
Sunday gave him the chance to strut his stuff in front of the Bramall Lane faithful but it’s safe to say things didn’t start so well for the Norwegian. It was Berge’s lazy pass out on the edge of his own area which gifted Bournemouth possession in the build-up to the opening goal and it would have been easy for the former Genk man to go into his shell after that.
However, Berge got his head down and by the time he left the pitch just after the hour mark, he’d completed more dribbles (3) than any other player on the pitch, won four aerial duels and made a vital contribution to Sheffield United’s equaliser, keeping the ball alive inside the Bournemouth penalty area.
A mixed bag for Berge on his home debut, but a promising display of mental fortitude and definitely more positives than negatives to take away.
5. Chance missed
Bramall Lane has certainly been one of the toughest grounds for visiting teams this season but despite that, Howe will definitely be treating this as a chance missed for his Bournemouth side after initially taking the lead.
Whether by clever build-up play, lightning counter-attacks or dangerous set-piece deliveries, the Cherries had more than their fair share of chances to take a more firm grip of this game but in the end, their profligacy in front of goal cost them.
Now, instead of leapfrogging Brighton into 15th, Bournemouth remain in 16th, just two points clear of West Ham and Watford in the drop zone. With fixtures against the likes of Chelsea, Spurs, Man City and Man Utd still to come between now and the end of the season, it’s going to go down to the wire for Howe’s men.