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First Team

Cherries in seventh heaven


AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

AFC Bournemouth registered their first Boxing Day victory in the Premier League after triumphing 3-0 against Fulham at Vitality Stadium.

Goals from Justin Kluivert and Luis Sinisterra sandwiched a penalty from Dom Solanke as the Cherries matched their longest unbeaten run in the top flight.

A sixth win, coupled with a draw against Aston Villa, made it seven games without a defeat, equalling a run set in 2017/18 – which started on Boxing Day.

And just for good measure, Solanke’s goal saw him draw level with Doug McGibbon in eighth place on the list of club’s record league goalscorers, the pair on 65.

Solanke’s 62nd-minute spot-kick – his fifth goal in successive league games against Fulham – took his tally for the season to 13 and eight in the past seven matches.

Scott and Kluivert were restored to the starting line-up as Cherries head coach Andoni Iraola made two changes following the eventful 3-2 win at Nottingham Forest on Saturday.

Scott came in for Lewis Cook, who suffered an adductor injury at the City Ground, while Kluivert replaced Philip Billing, who was named among the Cherries substitutes.

Cherries’ emergency left-back Dango Ouattara nipped ahead of Bobby De Cordova Reid to nod Alex Iwobi’s dangerous cross behind for a corner as Fulham pressed early on.

And after Andreas Pereira had delivered, De Cordova-Reid tried his luck from the edge of the box with Marcos Senesi blocking his effort and Neto saving comfortably from Antonee Robinson’s follow-up.

As the Cherries countered, Fulham goalkeeper Bernd Leno raced off his line to intercept Kluivert’s cross as Solanke looked to profit.

Kluivert was again involved as Solanke went close to breaking the deadlock, the Dutchman picking out the striker whose shot deflected off Tosin for a corner.

Tosin’s last-ditch challenge prevented Kluivert from opening the scoring, the Fulham defender sliding in after Semenyo’s excellent pass had set up the chance after 30 minutes.

And after the resultant corner had eventually found its way to Senesi, via Leno’s mistake, his angled cross was cleared off the line by Tosin.

Ouattara almost caught out Leno when he fastened on to Marcus Tavernier’s fine crossfield pass, the Burkina Faso international’s first-time effort from an acute angle spooned away by the Fulham goalkeeper.

As the Cherries continued to create chances towards the end of the first half, Tavernier’s fierce strike was flicked behind for a corner by Rodrigo Muniz.

Kluivert broke the deadlock on the stroke of half-time, the Dutchman finishing a sweeping move which owed much to the individual brilliance of Scott.

The 20-year-old showed some superb close control to leave two Fulham players trailing in his wake before outwitting a third with a delightful step-over.

Scott then drew two defenders out of position before rolling the ball into the path of Kluivert whose low drive squirmed through the grasp of Leno and into the back of the net.

Pereira’s tame free-kick from 35 yards was gathered by Neto early in the second half before Tavernier’s shot was blocked.

A Christmas miracle occurred when the Cherries were awarded a penalty after João Palhinha bundled Semenyo to the floor, VAR confirming referee Tim Robinson’s decision.

The Cherries’ first spot-kick for 609 days was expertly converted by Solanke, the striker sending Leno the wrong way to make it 2-0.

Iraola’s team thought they should have had a second penalty when Kluivert went to ground under a Robinson tackle but VAR determined otherwise.

Substitute Sinisterra came off the bench to put the icing on the cake, the Leeds loan star netting with a stunning 25-yard strike in added time to cap an excellent second half for the hosts.

AFC Bournemouth: Neto, Smith, Zabarnyi, Senesi, Ouattara, Scott, Christie, Semenyo (Sinisterra, 72), Kluivert (Billing, 72), Tavernier (Brooks, 88), Solanke.

Unused subs: Mepham, Aarons, Rothwell, Moore, Greenwood, Travers (g/k).

Fulham: Leno, Tete (Castagne, 73), Tosin, Bassey, Robinson (Ballo-Touré, 82), João Palhinha, Cairney (Lukic, 82), De Cordova-Reid (Wilson, 73), Pereira (Carlos Vinícius, 82), Iwobi, Muniz Carvalho.

Unused subs: Reed, Diop, Harris, Rodák (g/k).

Booked: Leno, Pereira.

Referee: Tim Robinson.

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