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Smalling and Lukaku score to beat Bournemouth

Romelu Lukaku's 27th goal for Manchester United and a third strike in as many away games for Chris Smalling gave Jose Mourinho's men maximum points against Bournemouth on Wednesday night.

Despite Bournemouth having won 18 points from losing positions this season, a goal in each half was enough to see off the Cherries without reply, as the Reds reinstated a four-point lead over third-placed Liverpool in the Premier League.
 
The visitors had a much-changed line-up from Sunday's disappointing home defeat to West Bromwich Albion, with Smalling being the only defender to retain his starting place. In all, Mourinho made seven changes to his side, admitting that some - but not all - were made with Saturday's Emirates FA Cup semi-final in mind.
 
United’s attack looked threatening from the outset. In just the third minute, a neat interchange between France team-mates Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial left Cherries centre-back Steve Cook needing to make a well-timed sliding challenge to stop Martial delivering a dangerous ball across goal.
 
Known for their attractive style, Bournemouth tried to take the game to United in the early stages and had a decent chance when left-back Charlie Daniels slid through a pass for Callum Wilson. Wilson picked out Jordon Ibe on the edge of the area, who could only drag his low effort wide.
Lewis Cook then played in Ryan Fraser with a neat pass, but Phil Jones was on hand to make sure any attempt by Fraser was turned behind. Jones was again present to make a clearance from the resulting corner.
 
A United goal looked like it was on the way and Marcus Rashford provided a warning sign when he forced Asmir Begovic into making his first save of the evening, shortly before the Reds did take the lead.
 
After a slick one-two passing move with Ander Herrera, Jesse Lingard had broken free of any markers and was unchallenged in sending the ball into the six-yard box, where Smalling met it to convert his third goal of the calendar year.
 
Jose Mourinho’s side were in the ascendancy having established a lead and Martial seemed to be clear and ready to add to it, only for him to be flagged offside by the assistant.
 
David De Gea was called into action as the minutes ticked down towards half-time. Nathan Ake had surged forward and having been fouled, an advantage saw the ball run to Wilson although De Gea was equal to the Englishman’s effort.
Smalling and team-mates celebrate
Chris Smalling continued his excellent goalscoring form by giving the Reds the lead.
It was another strong start for the Reds as the second period got under way. Martial lost Simon Francis as he checked his own run inside the penalty area and aimed a cross for Rashford waiting at the back post. However, Daniels was on hand to cut it out with a headed clearance.
 
Shortly before the hour mark, Joshua King charged down the left flank and played the ball across in search of Wilson, who was left demanding a penalty after a challenge by Jones as the pair stretched for the ball. His demands were not rewarded by referee Graham Scott who was quick to dismiss them.
 
No doubt aware of Bournemouth’s comeback ability, Mourinho decided to bring Lukaku into the fold for the final third of the match, with hope of notching another goal and killing the game off.
United had a penalty appeal at the other end when Lys Mosset was deemed to have fouled Paul Pogba, but referee Scott said it was just outside the area. Up stepped substitute Lukaku with the aim of getting that second goal for his team, but could only drive his free-kick hard into the wall.
 
Just minutes later, the Belgium striker did double the lead, when Pogba picked him out on the break, leaving him with the sort of one-on-one situation in which he is so deadly.
 
There were to be no heroics from the Cherries on this occasion, leaving United to take all three points and secure a first-ever league double over Bournemouth following the 1-0 home win back in December.
Lukaku celebrates United's second
Romelu Lukaku's 27th of the season made the game safe for United.
THE LINE-UPS
 
Bournemouth: Begovic; Daniels, Ake, S. Cook, Francis (c); Ibe (Mousset 56), Surman (Gosling 75), L. Cook, Fraser; King (Defoe 82); Wilson.
Substitutes: Boruc, Simpson, Arter, Pugh.
Booked: L. Cook, S. Cook, Surman.
 
United: De Gea (c); Darmian, Smalling, Jones, Shaw; Herrera (Matic 72), Fellaini, Pogba (Blind 80); Lingard (Lukaku 62), Rashford, Martial.
Substitutes: J.Pereira, Bailly, Young, Alexis.
Booked: Smalling
Pogba v Bournemouth
"A top performance," said Jose Mourinho of Paul Pogba's efforts against the Cherries.
TALKING POINTS
 
SMALLING SCORES AGAIN
 
The centre-back increased his goal tally for the season to four, by giving United the lead in the first half. It also means he has scored in three consecutive away games, having also scored in the thrilling 3-2 wins over Manchester City and Crystal Palace.
 
A TIGHT SHIP
 
Having conceded just 26 times in 34 Premier League matches, United have a chance of ending the season with the top flight’s best defensive record. With the speed and strength shown by the back line against Bournemouth, it is easy to understand why only the champions Manchester City have let in fewer goals - and that's only one less, having played one game less.
 
WHAT'S NEXT FOR UNITED?
 
The Reds will head to Wembley Stadium this Saturday (21 April) to face Tottenham Hotspur with a place in the Emirates FA Cup final at stake. Should United be victorious over Spurs, either Chelsea or Southampton would await in the final on 19 May.