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Seagulls downed by revitalised Cherries

AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

Kevin Friend

Harry Wilson’s finely-executed first-half goal paved the way for a potentially-crucial victory as AFC Bournemouth saw off Premier League rivals Brighton & Hove Albion tonight.

The Liverpool loan star eased the nerves by drawing first blood for the hosts in the 36th minute at a tension-filled Vitality Stadium, the Cherries’ first top-flight goal of 2020.

It was quickly followed by an own goal from Brighton midfielder Pascal Gross who hooked Diego Rico’s corner past his own goalkeeper four minutes before the break.

And Callum Wilson, who had applied pressure on Gross for the own goal, deservedly got his name on the scoresheet during an end-to-end second half.

The striker, who in common with his team-mates worked tirelessly for the cause, rounded Brighton goalkeeper and poked the ball into an empty net 16 minutes from time.

Aaron Mooy bagged a consolation for the visitors late on, the Huddersfield loan man finally finding a way past Aaron Ramsdale who made a series of superb saves as the Cherries collected a much-needed win.

Simon Francis and Dominic Solanke were restored to the Cherries starting line-up as boss Eddie Howe made two changes.

Francis came in for Steve Cook, who served a one-match suspension following his red card at Norwich on Saturday, while Solanke replaced Dan Gosling.

There was a welcome return among the Cherries substitutes for summer signing Lloyd Kelly who has endured an injury-interrupted time since joining from Bristol City.

Chances were at a premium during a cagey start to the opening period with Bernardo’s effort from an Alireza Jahanbakhsh cross deflected for a corner, which the Cherries defended with ease.

Jahanbakhsh, who opened the scoring for the Seagulls in their 2-0 win over the Cherries at the Amex after Christmas, also saw his shot deflected for a corner, which again came to nothing.

Neal Maupay tried his luck from the edge of the box with Nathan Ake blocking before Aaron Ramsdale made the first big save of the game midway through the first half.

The Cherries goalkeeper instinctively threw up his right arm to keep out Maupay’s effort after the striker had been picked out by Aaron Mooy’s incisive pass.  

Bernardo received a yellow card for a foul on Harry Wilson before the first half burst to life with the Cherries going close to breaking the deadlock three times in quick succession.

Firstly, a sweeping move involving Callum Wilson and Solanke ended with Diego Rico arriving to fire his blistering effort into the side netting.

Then, Brighton midfielder Dale Stephens twice blocked shots from Harry Wilson, the Liverpool loan man’s second attempt coming following a clever corner routine involving Ryan Fraser and Solanke.

The hosts’ incessant pressure finally paid off and Harry Wilson would not be denied in the 36th minute, the winger netting his seventh goal of the season to give the Cherries the lead.

The 22-year-old finished emphatically with his left foot from around 14 yards after Solanke had teed him up having latched on to Lewis Dunk’s attempted clearance.

He took a touch to get the ball under control and then drilled his shot into the middle of the goal as the Seagulls defence retreated in vain hope of clearing their lines.

And the Cherries quickly doubled their lead when Pascal Gross, under strong pressure from Callum Wilson, inadvertently poked Rico’s inswinging corner past Mat Ryan and into his own net just four minutes before the break.

Callum Wilson tried to carve out an opening at the start of the second half but his low cross-shot was blocked by Dunk.

Jahanbakhsh then strode forward purposefully but his resultant shot hit Ake and bounced past the upright.

Ryan produced a top-drawer one-handed save to keep out Phil Billing’s diving header, the Dane meeting Fraser’s free-kick at the far post.

A sliding block by Dunk prevented Harry Wilson’s driven effort from reaching Ryan before Ramsdale stood tall to beat away the Brighton skipper’s shot following a Mooy corner.

Ramsdale acrobatically tipped Maupay’s piledriver around the post before Jefferson Lerma screwed his shot wide after being teed up by Billing’s layoff.

Another important stop from Ramsdale saw him push Mooy’s shot over the crossbar as the visitors continued to fashion chances, while Francis blocked bravely after Maupay had taken aim.

Callum Wilson scored the goal his efforts had richly deserved, the striker rounding Ryan and poking the ball into an empty net after Solanke had initially mounted a counter-attack 16 minutes from time.

Harry Wilson’s determination presented Fraser with an opportunity, the Scotsman’s curling effort flashing past the post.

Mooy reduced the arrears when he lashed a shot in off the post after seizing on Francis’s headed clearance nine minutes from the end.

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