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Bournemouth beat Brighton to set new club record

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Enes Unal scored on his first Premier League start for Bournemouth as the Cherries beat below-par Brighton to reach their highest top-flight points total.

Marcos Senesi’s 13th-minute header gave Andoni Iraola’s side the lead, nodding in from three yards after the visitors failed to clear a corner.

Turkey striker Unal dragged wide in the first half, but scored his second goal since joining on loan from Getafe in January when he cleverly headed Dango Ouattara’s cross into the far corner after the break.

The impressive Justin Kluivert sealed the win when he drove at the Brighton defence late on and drilled a left-footed strike past Bart Verbruggen for his third goal in three home games.

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Brighton were lacklustre throughout and failed to create many meaningful chances – coming closest when Simon Adingra’s effort was tipped over the bar by Mark Travers.

There was concern late on for Bournemouth though, with winger Antoine Semenyo carried off on a stretcher with a suspected knee injury.

The victory moves the Cherries to 48 points – two more than their previous best top-flight haul in 2016-17.

Iraola told BBC Match of the Day: “We are really, really happy. The players deserve these points. They have performed really well.

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“Even when we weren’t getting points at the start of the season they were pushing and playing well. Now we want more points and to continue.”

He also confirmed Unal’s loan will become a permanent deal, saying: “We are very happy, especially with his attitude and how he is integrating on and off the pitch. It is a very good signing for us.”

Brighton remain 12th and have now won just six of their past 28 league games.

Their season is in danger of petering out in a campaign that has bucked the trend of their recent impressive progress.

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When Bournemouth started the Premier League season without a win in their opening nine games, the decision to part ways with Gary O’Neil and appoint Iraola – who had no experience in England – was questioned.

Those questions have been well and truly answered as the season has gone on.

They were excellent again on Sunday, playing with pace and creativity, and arguably should have won by a greater margin in the end.

Unal’s first-half miss was a huge chance and Kluivert hit the side netting when he should have squared early in the second.

Iraola’s side have taken 45 points from their past 26 games and if they could achieve that ratio over a full campaign then they would be challenging for the European places.

Read Also: Why Ronaldo is motivation to other players – Arsenal Winger Saka

For all of Bournemouth’s brilliance, Brighton were poor.

There is plenty of noise around Roberto de Zerbi’s future at the club and the Italian cut a disconsolate figure on the touchline at times.

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He was slouched in his seat after Bournemouth’s opener and looked miserable and frustrated as the game wore on.

Brighton made seven changes from their 4-0 thrashing by Manchester City in midweek, with the experienced Danny Welbeck and Adam Lallana dropping to the bench, including first Premier League starts for 21-year-old defender Odel Offiah and 19-year-old striker Mark O’Mahony.

De Zerbi’s side had 13 shots across the game but just one on target and while they are hampered by injuries, their run since September has seen only Burnley, Nottingham Forest and Sheffield United win fewer matches.

They have issues to resolve over the coming weeks ahead of next season – the biggest is whether De Zerbi will remain in the dugout.

De Zerbi told BBC Match of the Day: “We have to play much better than we are playing. We would like to give more and more but maybe in this moment it is tough for us.

“We prepared the game well but our best at the moment is not enough.

“I have big confidence in my players. I know how they feel when we lose a game. We lose together and we have keep going together.”

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