Solanke strikes in Boro away draw
- Matt Donohue
Dominic Solanke opened the scoring only for Middlesbrough to level in a hard-fought 1-1 draw at the Riverside Stadium.
A slow burner of a first half was ignited in the 38th minute when the Cherries striker got a touch to a low corner to open his account for the season, the visitors a goal to the good at the interval.
After the break Solanke was close again when he raced clear but couldn't finish and within minutes Boro were on level terms when Marcus Browne was able netted with his head from Paddy McNair's centre.
Both sides battled for a winner, Jefferson Lerma forcing a good late save from a header, with the Boro equaliser - the hosts playing without manager Neil Warnock on the sidelines after a positive Covid-19 test - ultimately splitting the points.
After playing in the Carabao Cup in midweek, Asmir Begovic was back between the sticks for the Cherries, joining midfielders David Brooks and Dan Gosling as the three changes from the season-opening win against Blackburn.
Under cloudy but mild skies, the visitors got the match under way in their striking turquoise away colours on Tesside, approximately 1,000 home supporters allowed into the stadium as part of the latest EFL attendance trial.
George Saville dragged a low shot wide for the hosts from 22 yards inside the opening two minutes, Begovic next dropping onto a Djed Spence shot at his near post, Boro making the faster start.
Brooks threatened down the right, his low ball in scooped away by a defender, the front three all playing a part next when Arnaut Danjuma's pass allowed Solanke to swivel, his shot blocked upwards and falling for Brooks to volley, the ball flying wide just before the offside flag was raised.
Into the second quarter of the match and the Cherries were increasingly finding their feet in the contest and enjoying more possession, through Grant Hall's 35th-minute header over the bar from a corner was a better opportunity than the away side had yet been able to carve out.
That changed as Brooks steadied himself and fired towards the top corner from 25 yards, Middlesbrough 'keeper Marcus Bettinelli producing a stunning save to keep it out, though there was nothing he could do moments later as the Cherries took the lead.
Danjuma's corner was low and towards Solanke, the striker getting a flick before a decisive touch off a defender diverted the ball into the net at the near post.
Ashley Fletcher, Boro's top scorer from last season, grazed a header from McNair's centre well wide before the break, Bournemouth able to get to the interval with the slender lead intact.
Unchanged for the start of the second period, Boro's Marcus Tavernier drove an angled shot wide from range, a nick off a defender leading to a corner from which Begovic needed to be alert save from another Hall header.
An inswinging Brooks free-kick was cleanly taken in the air by Bettinelli, though in truth the game, as had been the case in the first half, was struggling to find its flow.
The tempo upped, Solanke surge was ended abruptly by Anfernee Dijksteel just outside the attacking D, the resulting free-kick from Danjuma deflecting off the wall and behind for a corner.
Jefferson Lerma got his head to the set piece, though couldn't direct his header on target.
Begovic was quick from his line to get to a through ball first as Britt Assombalonga raced forwards beyond Lloyd Kelly, the Bosnian taking a blow in the challenge but able to continue.
The Boro forward's charge continued as he headed Saville's cross towards goal, the ball landing harmlessly on the top of the netting, Chris Mepham soon penalised for a foul that offered Boro a shooting opportunity.
Again Assombalonga took the strike on, and too hot for Begovic to handle the ball fell to Browne, his chest down converted by Saville only for celebrations to be quickly ended by an offside flag.
A double away switch introduced Diego Rico and Philip Billing to proceedings, Jack Stacey and Arnaut Danjuma making way as the Cherries looked to solidify their position.
On the break Solanke had Bournemouth's best chance of the second period. Rico raced at speed down the left flank and played inside for the striker, Solanke galloped into the box and with a free shot saw his low effort blocked away by the foot of Bettinelli.
However, Middlesbrough did have their equalising goal in the 81st minute, Browne finding the net with a header from close range.
McNair was the architect, his deep ball from the right bouncing on its way through to team-mate Browne, the striker adding a finishing touch inside the six-yard box.
Billing's low free-kick deflected behind for a Cherries corner, Marvin Johnson put behind for another and as the second set piece was recycled the recently-introduced Sam Surridge squared for Solanke, who was only denied by a brave last-ditch block.
The next corner was met by Lerma, his header true but well saved by Bettenelli, Bournemouth's late salvo so far coming up without reward.
Three minutes of added time were played out with both sides firing high balls into the area but neither able to find a winner for a hard-fought game in the north east.