Match ends, Fulham 1, Bournemouth 1.
Tosin Adarabioyo’s first goal for Fulham ensured his side shared the points with Bournemouth in a meeting of the Championship’s top two.
The defender glanced home substitute Tom Cairney’s cross with six minutes remaining to keep his team one point clear in first place.
Dominic Solanke had scored his 17th goal of the season six seconds into the second half to put Bournemouth ahead.
But they could not hang on to give manager Scott Parker a winning return to his old club.
It is now three successive draws for Marco Silva’s Fulham, whereas Bournemouth have won only one of their past six games following a blistering start to the season.
However, before the rest of the weekend’s games, there is an eight-point gap between the Cherries and third-placed QPR.
With the Championship season almost at its halfway point, there was genuine excitement ahead of the meeting of the division’s two outstanding teams so far and they did not disappoint with an enthralling encounter.
No side had scored more than Fulham’s 49 goals, while they and Bournemouth shared the joint best defensive record – along with West Brom – with just 16 conceded.
There was the added spice, too, of Parker returning to the club he left in the summer after more than two years in charge with both promotion and relegation on his CV from his time at Craven Cottage.
The tempo was high from the off with Adam Smith testing Marek Rodak for the visitors and Neeskens Kebano twice forcing saves out of Mark Travers at the other end all inside the first 10 minutes.
In a game littered with intrigue and sub-plots, the Championship’s top two strikers were also on the field in Aleksandar Mitrovic and Solanke.
Solanke is having his best ever season for goals and he twice nearly gave Bournemouth the lead, but the 24-year-old was just off target on both occasions.
But as a pulsating half ended, Fulham looked certain to score, only for visiting captain Steve Cook to make two sensational goalbound blocks in the same attack, from Mitrovic and then Fabio Carvalho.
Solanke’s goal straight from the restart caught the home side cold as he latched on to Philip Billing’s lofted pass in what appeared to be a training ground move.
Fulham were stunned and took time to respond before they turned up the pressure on the visitors’ goal, with Travers called upon to deny Kebano and Mitrovic.
But with six minutes left, Adarabioyo found the net for the first time since a goal on loan for Blackburn in June 2020 to claim a point their efforts deserved.
It was an excellent advert for the Championship and on this evidence, both sides will be favourites to claim the two automatic promotion slots in May.
Fulham manager Marco Silva told BBC Radio London:
“I think everyone who saw the game will think we deserved more from it. We were the best team on the pitch definitely.
“They tried to surprise us a bit with a change of formation, but we got the message across early and dealt with it and went into half-time the stronger side.
“We had a clear penalty not given and many, many times these decisions are going against us so hopefully one day, they will start to go our way.
“We switched off for two seconds at the start of the second half and we can’t concede a goal like that at this level.
“But I was impressed that we never gave up, we kept fighting, kept creating chances and we deserved more than we got from the game.
“They fought and fought and did well, Steve Cook was tremendous for them, like a second goalkeeper with those blocks in the first half. But we know we should’ve put some of the chances we had away.”
Bournemouth manager Scott Parker told BBC Radio Solent:
“We’ve come here with a group of players and some of them only off the back of just one day’s training. Gary Cahill and Adam Smith have been out for a while, but we’re a little bit desperate at the moment and we’re struggling in that sense.
“We go ahead and then they put us under immense pressure from that point onwards and we weren’t quite able to hold out.
“There’s elements of the performance you want to improve so early in the process, but overall, I’m incredibly proud of my team and each and every one of them.
“I know the situation in-house at this moment in time and some of those boys out there put their hand up when I get that it wasn’t ideal.
“Steve Cook epitomised everything that we needed to do tonight, Mark Travers and Cahill too.
“I said before the game that we would need to weather it and it would be painful at times, but they put it in.
“The goal was straight off the training ground. We worked on it on Thursday to try to work out where they were weak and sometimes they don’t always come to fruition on the stage.
“But tonight, there’s nothing more pleasing that it came off. We wanted to try to exploit the spaces between full-back and centre-half on transitions and the areas where Dominic Solanke was popping up, and it worked.”
Player of the match
with an average of 7.20
Squad number7Player nameKebano
Squad number10Player nameCairney
Squad number16Player nameTosin
Squad number9Player nameMitrovic
Squad number13Player nameReam
Squad number8Player nameWilson
Squad number1Player nameRodák
Squad number6Player nameReed
Squad number28Player nameCarvalho
Squad number24Player nameSeri
Squad number14Player nameDe Cordova-Reid
Squad number4Player nameOdoi
Squad number23Player nameBryan
Squad number10Player nameChristie
Squad number3Player nameS Cook
Squad number9Player nameSolanke
Squad number42Player nameTravers
Squad number24Player nameCahill
Squad number15Player nameA Smith
Squad number4Player nameL Cook
Squad number32Player nameAnthony
Squad number29Player nameBilling
Squad number11Player nameEmiliano Marcondes
Squad number22Player namePearson
Squad number17Player nameStacey
Squad number12Player nameBrady
Squad number6Player nameMepham
17Stacey24Cahill3S Cook15A Smith
Match ends, Fulham 1, Bournemouth 1.
Second Half ends, Fulham 1, Bournemouth 1.
Attempt blocked. Harrison Reed (Fulham) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Corner, Fulham. Conceded by Ben Pearson.
Attempt blocked. Harrison Reed (Fulham) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Harry Wilson.
Denis Odoi (Fulham) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Robbie Brady (Bournemouth).
Substitution, Bournemouth. Chris Mepham replaces Adam Smith.
Substitution, Bournemouth. Robbie Brady replaces Jaidon Anthony.
Philip Billing (Bournemouth) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Harry Wilson (Fulham) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Philip Billing (Bournemouth).
Goal! Fulham 1, Bournemouth 1. Tosin Adarabioyo (Fulham) header from the centre of the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Tom Cairney with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Fulham. Conceded by Steve Cook.
Bobby De Cordova-Reid (Fulham) is shown the yellow card.
Attempt missed. Neeskens Kebano (Fulham) left footed shot from the left side of the six yard box is close, but misses to the left following a set piece situation.
Attempt saved. Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham) header from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Harry Wilson with a cross.
Ryan Christie (Bournemouth) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Joe Bryan (Fulham) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Ryan Christie (Bournemouth).