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Rovers triumph to close gap on Cherries

AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

Simon Hooper

Blackburn Rovers narrowed the gap on AFC Bournemouth to four points after triumphing 2-0 at Vitality Stadium.

Ben Pearson was credited with an own goal he could do very little about as Rovers took the lead in the 21st minute before Jan Paul van Hecke added a second in the 65th minute.

Pearson was deemed to have had the final touch after Ben Brereton Diaz had seized on the loose ball and clipped it towards the far post where it hit the midfielder before crossing the line.

Scott Parker’s team were convinced they should have had a penalty when Dominic Solanke appeared to be fouled by Darragh Lenihan but referee Simon Hooper turned down their appeals.

Despite making an encouraging start to the second half, the Cherries were rocked when van Hecke doubled Rovers’ lead in the 65th minute.

The Dutch defender, on loan to Rovers from Brighton, arrived at the near post to power a header past Mark Travers from a Joe Rothwell corner.

Robbie Brady was handed his first start as head coach Parker made three changes following the 1-1 draw at Fulham.

Brady joined Ben Pearson and Jamal Lowe in the Cherries starting line-up, the trio replacing Adam Smith, Phil Billing and Emi Marcondes.

Lewis Cook’s timely interception prevented Rovers dangerman Brereton Diaz from taking aim in the early stages, while Joe Rothwell’s sliding tackle on Jack Stacey nipped a Cherries break in the bud.

Midfielder Lewis Cook then latched on to a headed clearance from Brady’s cross, his precise volley from the edge of the box hitting defender Scott Wharton.

A swift counter-attack from Rovers ended with Brereton Diaz lifting a first-time shot high over the crossbar after Josh Buckley’s pass had teed him up.

Ryan Christie started a sweeping move following a Rovers corner but, after Jaidon Anthony had looked to find Dominic Solanke, his cross was headed behind by Harry Pickering.

Rovers drew first blood in the 21st minute when Brereton Diaz was on hand to bag his 18th goal of the season in the Championship, the Cherries convinced he was offside when he scored.

Although Mark Travers made a fine save to keep out Darragh Lenihan’s header from a Pickering cross, Chile international Brereton Diaz clipped the loose ball towards the back post where it appeared to hit Pearson on its way to finding the back of the net.

As the Cherries went in search of a quick equaliser, Christie was denied by a smart save from Aynsley Pears, the Rovers goalkeeper sticking out his right knee to keep out the Scotsman’s effort.

Appeals for a penalty fell on deaf ears after Solanke had gone to ground under a Lenihan challenge, referee Simon Hooper unmoved.   

Steve Cook showed all his experience to stop Reda Khadra testing Travers, the Cherries skipper biding his time and picking his moment to tackle the Rovers frontman after he raced through in the 36th minute.

As the first half drew to a close, Stacey’s crucial tackle on Brereton Diaz prevented the Rovers striker from troubling Travers before a Cherries corner was cleared to Lewis Cook who fired high and wide.

Pears made two important stops in added time, the Blackburn goalkeeper saving low down with his left hand after Solanke had been sent clear by Christie’s pass.

And after the Cherries had been awarded a free-kick around 25 yards from goal, Pears scrambled across his line to pouch Christie’s effort.

Marcondes replaced Pearson at the break and was soon in the thick of the action, making his presence felt as the Cherries looked for an opening.

Good defending from Wharton blocked Solanke’s shot after Christie had found him before Steve Cook threw himself in front of a Buckley piledriver.

Lenihan climbed at the far post to meet Rothwell’s corner, his header just going over the top before Travers saved at his near post from Buckley.

Marcondes’s trickery saw him weave his way through but the Rovers defence did well to clear after the Dane had crossed into the danger zone.

Brereton Diaz was foiled by Travers as he looked to make it 2-0 midway in the second half, the Cherries goalkeeper saving with his left leg after the Rovers man had gone clear.

But from the resultant corner taken by Rothwell, van Hecke arrived at the near post to send a thumping header into the back of the net to double the visitors’ lead.

Travers was forced to beat away Brereton’s stinging drive before Marcondes’s free-kick from 25 yards was saved by Pears.

Pears also gathered from Solanke after he had attempted to divert Christie’s shot goalwards.

AFC Bournemouth: Travers, Stacey, Cahill, S Cook (Kelly, 66), Brady, Pearson (Marcondes, h-t), L Cook, Christie, Anthony (Rogers, 72), Lowe, Solanke.

Unused subs: Mepham, Davis, Kilkenny, Nyland (g/k).

Booked: L Cook, Stacey, Marcondes.

Blackburn Rovers: Pears, Wharton (Ayala, 67), Lenihan, Paul van Hecke, Nyambe (Johnson, 72), Rothwell, Travis, Pickering, Buckley, Brereton Diaz, Khadra (Gallagher, 55).

Unused subs: Dolan, Clarkson, Edun, Eastham (g/k).

Booked: Brereton Diaz, van Hecke, Buckley, Rothwell.

Referee: Simon Hooper.

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