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Bournemouth inflict crushing blow on Premier League strugglers Luton

Antoine Semenyo salutes the crowd

Luton became only the third team in Premier League history to surrender a three-goal half-time lead after Bournemouth sensationally fought back to inflict huge damage on Rob Edwards’ hopes of survival.

Only Tottenham in 2001 and Leicester in 2003 have suffered the same ignominy and Luton now face a crucial showdown with Nottingham Forest at Kenilworth Road on Saturday, a match certain to have a significant bearing on the fate of both clubs.

“Huge game on Saturday,” conceded Luton manager Edwards. “Losing is difficult anyway but in that manner it does hurt, but if we can’t pick ourselves up for a huge Premier League game then there’s something wrong.

“I feel we didn’t defend in duels well enough. There were some individual mistakes. We gave them encouragement with the early goal and we weren’t quite able to cope with that barrage, that forward running power they’ve got.”

As good as they were in the first half, Luton capitulated in the second. Once Dominic Solanke had brilliantly improvised his way to Bournemouth’s first goal, the belief seeped out of Edwards’ players and the Cherries seemed to score with every attack.

Solanke scores
Dominic Solanke chips in Bournemouth's first of three goals in 14 second-half minutes that clawed their way to parity - REUTERS/Toby Melville

Having managed only a point against Sheffield United at the weekend, this was Bournemouth’s first league win at home since Boxing Day.

Manager Andoni Iraola revealed he had overcome a three-goal half-time lead when playing for Athletic Bilbao against Osasuna but had never done so as a manager. “At the end you are very happy, it is true, but during the game it is difficult to believe,” he said. “Everyone knew that we needed to change some things. It was a very bad first half but it wasn’t so atrocious. We were going to have chances because they are a very brave team who pressed us high.

“The key was to score early. I think Dom’s goal made us believe. The players showed a lot of character.”

The nature of this defeat may prove difficult to come back from for Edwards’ players, who had been lifted before kick-off by the appearance of club captain Tom Lockyer returning to the ground where he suffered a cardiac arrest  on Dec 16. Before kick-off Lockyer shook hands with the medical response team who saved his life that day and took in the applause from all sides of the stadium, who sang his name in unison.

Tom Lockyer

Luton quickly took the lead when Tahith Chong headed in at the far post after a precision cross from Jordan Clark on nine minutes. They went two up with a rapid and well-executed counter-attack which saw Chong and Alfie Doughty combine to set up Chiedozie Ogbene to score at the far post.

Luton were cohesive and fluid with Edwards cleverly deploying Chong and Ogbene in the gaps between defence and midfield.

The away end could hardly believe what they were watching as the excellent Ross Barkley smashed a third into the roof of the net after Issa Kaboré had driven forward and picked out his run.

Iraola made a double substitution at half-time and Bournemouth’s response was immediate. Solanke scored with a wonderful back-heel through the legs of Daiki Hashioka before chipping over Thomas Kaminski.

Their second was more prosaic as Illia Zabarnyi forced his header over the line after Lewis Cook’s corner, despite Doughty’s valiant attempts to keep it out.

And two minutes later the scores were level after Antoine Semenyo cut in from the right-hand side and drove a shot into the near corner of Kaminski’s goal.

Seven minutes from time, the turnaround was complete when the excellent Semenyo scored his second goal of the game, this time shooting across Kaminski after being played in by Enes Unal.

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