Tosin Adarabioyo picked the perfect moment to break his Fulham duck as the towering centre half’s late equaliser spoiled Scott Parker’s return to Craven Cottage. Bournemouth looked poised to leave SW6 with all three points and move above Parker’s old club at the top of the Championship courtesy of Dominic Solanke’s stunning strike and some dogged defending, but Adarabioyo’s glancing header from Tom Cairney’s clipped cross handed the Whites a share of the spoils.
On the balance of play, that was the least Fulham deserved. They fashioned the clearer chances and – after being stung by Solanke’s superb finish seven seconds into the second half – laid siege to the Bournemouth goal. The Cherries, already indebted to goalkeeper Mark Travers for a string of superb saves, paid for Parker’s pragmatism as they were unable to cling onto their slender lead. Cairney, cast aside by Parker in Fulham’s survival bid last season when the captain felt he was fit enough to play a part, came off the bench to add creativity in midfield and it was no surprise when he unlocked the visiting defence with a clever ball that Adarabioyo guided beyond Travers’ despairing dive.
That Fulham were behind at all, having dominated an engrossing first half, probably had something to do with Parker’s meticulous preparation and the inside track on his former employers. Straight from the restart, for which the away side had been sent out early, Philip Billing lifted a bill over Tim Ream and Denis Odoi for Solanke, who outmuscled the latter, and finished majestically past Marek Rodak. The goal briefly discombobulated Fulham but rather than go for the kill, Bournemouth were content to sit on their narrow lead – and that negativity proved costly.
Fulham’s brightest spark throughout was the lively Neeskens Kebano, another player overlooked by Parker during his time at Craven Cottage. The Congolese winger ran Bournemouth ragged down the left flank, with Lewis Cook and Jack Stacey both booked for cutting him down. Kebano twice drew excellent stops from Travers inside the first fifteen minutes before being denied by a brave block from Stacey as he sought to turn home Fabio Carvalho’s cross. The visitors’ goal was living a charmed life – as illustrated by the way Steve Cook somehow blocked twice in quick succession from Mitrovic and Carvalho after Kebano had cut open the away defence.
The home side were incensed that there were not awarded a penalty when Wilson was tripped inside the area by Solanke and Tim Robinson also only opted to book Lewis Cook for his wild, knee-high lunge on Kebano. Bournemouth operated mostly on the counter attack with Rodak saving smartly from Adam Smith before Solanke sent a free header wide and drove a low effort past the far post after accelerating away from Adarabioyo.
But Solanke grabbed his goal in eye-catching fashion seconds after the interval, firing clinically into the top corner after Fulham’s defence had been caught out by Billing’s brilliant vision. Kebano quickly tested Travers again at his near post and Wilson’s rising drive whistled just past the angle of post and bar as Bournemouth dropped deeper and deeper. Aleksandar Mitrovic, well marshalled for the most part by the visiting defence, skimmed the crossbar with a header from a Jean Michael Seri free-kick before heading a short corner into Travers’ arms.
Cairney immediately perked up Fulham’s attack after arriving off the bench, with one lovely pass sending Kebano clean through on goal – only for Travers to successfully narrow the angle at his near post. The Scottish midfielder then delivered a free-kick right on Mitrovic’s head only for Travers to palm away again before Kebano somehow screwed the follow-up into the side netting from four yards out. Just when it looked like it wasn’t going to be Fulham’s night, Adarabioyo flicked home another fabulous Cairney delivery to the delight of a roaring Craven Cottage – and an ecstatic Marco Silva on the touchline. The delightful defender mocked Solanke’s bow and arrow celebration, even if he was more interested in getting back to the centre circle.
Fulham pushed for a winner during four minutes of added time, but they had to settle for a point that preserved their position at the top of the Championship table. Kebano summed up their disappointed, sat on the turf after the final whistle, reflecting on a pulsating contest. Perhaps more pertinently, he was clutching his hamstring. Silva will hope his lively winger isn’t seriously injured as he begins to contemplate the Christmas programme.
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Rodak; Odoi, Bryan, Adarabioyo, Ream; Seri (Cairney 70), Reed; Wilson, Kebano, Carvalho (Decordova-Reid 70), Wilson; Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Gazzaniga, Tete, Hector, Onomah, Muniz.
BOOKED: Carvalho, Bryan, Decordova-Reid.
GOAL: Adarabioyo (84).
AFC BOURNEMOUTH (4-1-2-3): Travers; Stacey, Smith (Mepham 89), Cahill, S. Cook,; L. Cook; Marcondes (Pearson 56), Billing; Christie, Solanke, Anthony (Brady 89). Subs (not used): Nyland, Kilkenny, Rogers, Lowe.
BOOKED: L. Cook, Stacey, Smith, Travers, R. Christie, Billing.
GOAL: Solanke (46).
REFEREE: Tim Robinson (West Sussex).