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First team

Narrow Loss in Benfica Starter

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

AFC Bournemouth suffered a 2-1 defeat in their opening pre-season fixture, away at Portuguese giants Benfica.

Arnaut Danjuma’s stunning strike was sandwiched by equally impressive goals from Adel Taarabt and Everton for the hosts – all arriving inside an action-packed opening 21 minutes at the Estadio da Luz.

But despite a spirited showing against powerful opposition, and opportunities of note for Dominic Solanke, Sam Surridge and Philip Billing, the Cherries were unable to salvage a share of the spoils.

Bournemouth will head to the London Stadium on Saturday for their next pre-season showing, where they will face West Ham United in the Betway Cup.

The visitors made a bright start and created the game’s first chance with less than two minutes on the clock – winger Danjuma cutting in off the left flank but curling narrowly off target.

At the other end, Pizzi suffered the same fate after being fed by former QPR man Taarabt, with neither goalkeeper tested in the opening exchanges.

The ball was in the back of the Bournemouth net in the eighth minute thanks to Everton’s fierce 20-yard drive but, fortunately, referee Antonio Nobre had already blown his whistle for a foul on teammate Rafa, for which the resulting free-kick sailed wide.

The hosts were growing in confidence and Seferovic sent a low ball through the heart of the six-yard box which didn’t receive the crucial touch it was crying out for.

It was a lucky escape but the deadlock was broken soon after when Taarabt strode forward from the middle of the pitch and sent a long-range left-footed strike beyond the despairing dive of Asmir Begovic.

While some may have expected the Cherries to fold having gone behind, Jason Tindall’s new-look side provided the perfect response less than two minutes later – and in some style.

A sweeping Jefferson Lerma pass out to the left found Diego Rico in space, who duly picked out Danjuma on the edge of the area. And the Dutchman’s finish was exquisite, finding the far top corner to level things up.

The goals were flowing and Benfica regained the lead in the 21st minute, as Everton impressively curled home a low shot which nestled in the bottom corner.

Danjuma attempted to provide parity once more but found home goalkeeper Odysseas equal to his effort, while Surridge sent a looping header onto the roof of the net.

Boss Tindall made four changes at half-time, introducing goalkeeper Mark Travers, full-back Jack Stacey and central midfield pair Dan Gosling and Billing.

And Billing had a part to play in Bournemouth’s first opening of the second half, feeding Junior Stanislas with a clever pass in a move that ended with Solanke’s shot saved by Odysseas.

The arrivals of Jack Simpson and Gavin Kilkenny from the substitutes’ bench on the hour mark brought a change of formation to a 3-5-2 system, as the visitors attempted to deal with some prolonged Benfica pressure.

It almost paid dividends in the 70th minute when Phil Billing made a late surge towards the area and sent an effort just wide of the upright.

And although the Cherries ended the contest the stronger team, they were unable to find the equaliser their efforts deserved.

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