Seventh heaven as Cherries tame Lions
- Keith Stroud
A near-perfect away performance saw AFC Bournemouth stretch their winning run to seven straight after a 4-1 win over Millwall at the Den.
Following a strong start the Cherries took the lead, Philip Billing continuing his hot streak by subtly flicking the ball home after Dominic Solanke had created the opportunity by doggedly winning back the ball.
Arnaut Danjuma soon doubled the advantage, coolly slotting home when set through by a long clearance direct from Asmir Begovic.
A brilliant third came just before the break, Solanke's delightful slide-rule pass pounced upon by David Brooks who clipped inside his man before rolling home to cap a flawless first-half display.
Jed Wallace pulled one back for Millwall shortly after the restart, but there was nothing the hosts could do to stop some mesmeric build up play as Solanke added his name to the scoresheet.
Further chances came as the scintillating Cherries looked for more, having to settle for four as they moved up to third and took another huge step towards confirming their place in the Championship play-offs.
There was just a single change to the Cherries' line-up with Jack Stacey coming into the 11 in place of Adam Smith, who was on the bench.
On a bright early evening but with a slight chill still blowing through the corners of the stands at the Den, the hosts got the game going with an up an under headed clear by Jefferson Lerma.
A deflected clearance dropped down for Arnaut Danjuma, the in-form Dutchman unable to control, Brooks soon striding towards the penalty area but scuffing his shot after opening room for himself.
The Cherries were increasingly finding their feet in the contest, and they had the ball in the net in the tenth minute but saw the offside flag go up.
Brooks had found Danjuma's curving run excellently and the latter had slipped the ball home under the 'keeper, but a visiting opener would have to wait.
And within five minutes the first goal arrived through Solanke's endeavour and Billing's calmness in front of goal.
The striker battled his defender for a bouncing ball, stole possession away and prodded for the forward-rushing Dane, who took a touch before deftly lifting home his eighth goal of the season.
Steve Cook would have opened his goalscoring account for the campaign but for an excellent one-handed save from Bartosz Bialkowski, the defender's powerful header from a right-wing cross looking odds on for a quickfire away second.
Danjuma threatened but saw his shot deflect over the bar, the corner from Brooks directed goalwards by Solanke but parried away again by the busy Bialkowski.
Over 25 minutes into the fixture and the first opening appeared for Millwall, a cross floating over everyone with Maikel Kierftenbeld arriving at the back post but miskicking at the crucial moment.
Seconds later and the away side doubled their advantage, a goal that was direct but clinically taken, by Danjuma once again.
Claiming a ball aerially entering into the area, Begovic cleared long and suddenly Danjuma was through on goal. Steadying himself on the run, he prodded beyond the 'keeper and the ball slowly bounced across the line and nestled in the back of the net.
A slight dampener was put on an excellent first half when Lloyd Kelly needed to be replaced after dropping to the turf injured and holding his ankle, Diego Rico coming on to fill the left-back role.
Before the half was out the visitors crowned a rampant 45 minutes with a third excellent goal.
Solanke held up possession and fed a terrific through ball for Brooks to latch onto. The Wales international came inside the defender and found the net with a low finish that wrong-footed Bialkowski.
The Cherries walked in at the break with a three-goal lead after one of the best 45 minutes of the season.
The Lions quickly registered at the start of the second period, Wallace firing home from an angle to bring the home side within two.
A great chance to stretch the lead back out again came and went when Rico's wicked cross left Solanke just needing to place the fast-travelling ball into the net, instead firing over the bar.
The play becoming more competitive, former Cherries man Scott Malone received a yellow for a tackle, the away side soon notching an unstoppable fourth as the goals kept flowing.
Solanke scored the goal his display had warranted as he deliciously exchanged passes with Billing on the edge of the area, opening up the backline completely and allowing the striker to pass the ball home from ten yards.
Bournemouth were purring and when Rico played inside substitute Junior Stanislas dummied the ball for Billing. Looking to score the perfect goal, the midfielder tried to find Sam Surridge only for a defender to intervene.
Brooks came within a lick of paint a fantastic fifth after driving forwards and ploughing in a low shot that beat Bialkowski but came back into play off the face of the post.
Every away attack looked like ending in a chance and Stanislas would have had one but for his shot being pulled just a yard wide of the far post.
The away side passed the ball to the final whistle, claiming three big points at moving themselves within a whisker of confirming their play-off place at the end of the season.